Catholic Teaching on
The Inscription on the Gate
of Hell in Dante's Inferno.
AM THE WAY INTO THE DOLEFUL CITY
I AM THE WAY INTO ETERNAL GRIEF,
I AM THE WAY TO A FORSKAEN RACE....
ABANDON ALL HOPE, ALL YOU WHO ENTER HERE."
- Today, people often assume that most folks
will go to heaven. They assume that those who live a "normal" style of
life without many truely evil acts or attitudes are safe. Protestants
often believe that if you have accepted Christ you are safe, but this
is not Catholic teaching. Jesus himself tells us we need to be very
careful because "Many are invited, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14 compare NIV. God says regarding the sinner:" 'Bind
his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there
will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' (Matt. 22:13.) See, footnote 7 on this passage and Matt. 8:11-12.
- "CCC 1033 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love
means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.
This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the
blessed is called "hell."
Traditonal Catholic Teaching on hell.
The Athanasian Creed:
"He ascended into Heaven, He sits on the Right hand of the FATHER, GOD
Almighty: from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At
Whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies: and shall give
account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into
life everlasting: and they that have done evil into everlasting fire."
"Hell, then, here signifies those secret abodes in which are
detained the souls that have not obtained the happiness of heaven. In
this sense the word is frequently used in Scripture. Thus the Apostle
says: At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in
heaven, on earth, and in hell; and in the Acts of the Apostles St.
Peter says that Christ the Lord is again risen, having loosed the
sorrows of hell.
Different Abodes Called Hell
- These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is
that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned
are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable
fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell
- Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just
men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted
into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled enters. The
truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare,' on
Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition
from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in
times when men endure not sound doctrine.
- Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of
the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and
where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the
blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate
these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the
Savior, Christ the Lord descended into hell. " The Council of Trent. (This place of separation without
pain has also been called "Limbo".)
- "'Deprived of the sight of God,' This is called the pain
of loss, while the other sufferings the damned endure are called the
pain of sense--that is, of the senses. The pain of loss causes the
unfortunate souls more torment than all their other sufferings; for as
we are created for God alone, the loss of Him--our last end--is the
most dreadful evil that can befall us. This the damned realize, and
know that their souls will be tortured by a perpetual yearning never to
be satisfied. This is aggravated by the thought of how easily they
might have been saved, and how foolishly they threw away their
happiness and lost all for some miserable pleasure or gratification, so
- Besides this remorse, they suffer most frightful torments in all
their senses. The worst sufferings you could imagine would not be as
bad as the sufferings of the damned really are; for Hell must be the
opposite of Heaven, and since we cannot, as St. Paul says, imagine the
happiness of Heaven, neither can we imagine the misery of Hell.... We
know that the damned will never see God and there will never be an end
to their torments. Now, all this is contained in the following: Hell is
the absence of everything good and the presence of everything evil, and
it will last forever....
- If, then, you bear in mind that there is nothing good in Hell and
it will last forever, and often think of these two points, you will
have a holy fear of the woeful place and a deep sorrow for your sins
which expose you to the danger of suffering its torments.
- It should be enough, therefore, for you to remember: there is
nothing good in Hell, and it will last forever. Think of anything good
you please and it cannot be found in Hell. Is light good? Yes. Then it
is not in Hell. Is hope good? Yes. Then it is not in Hell. Is true
friendship good? Yes. Then it is not in Hell. There the damned hate one
another. There the poor sufferers curse forever those who led them into
sin. Hence, persons should try to bring back to a good life everyone
they may have led into sin or scandalized by bad example. " The Baltimore Catechism.
- "According to Basil, at the final cleansing of the world, there
will be a separation of the elements, whatever is pure and noble
remaining above for the glory of the blessed, and whatever is ignoble
and sordid being cast down for the punishment of the damned: so that
just as every creature will be to the blessed a matter of joy, so will
all the elements conduce to the torture of the damned, according to Wis. 5:21, "the whole world will fight with
Him against the unwise." This is also becoming to Divine justice, that
whereas they departed from one by sin, and placed their end in material
things which are many and various, so should they be tormented in many
ways and from many sources. " St.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica.
- "In what things a man has sinned, in the same shall he be the
more grievously punished. There shall the slothful be pricked forward
with burning goads, and the gluttons be tormented with vast thirst and
hunger. There shall the luxurious and lovers of pleasures be bathed in
burning pitch and stinking brimstone; and the envious, like raging
dogs, shall howl for very grief. There is no sin but shall have its
proper torment. There the proud shall be filled with all confusion; the
covetous shall be pinched with miserable penury.
- There one hour of pain shall be more severe than a hundred years
of the severest penance here! There is there no quiet, no comfort for
the damned;"' yet here we have some respite of our labours, and enjoy
the comfort of our friends." Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, book 1, chapter
24 § 2. (See Mk 9:43-49; AST)
Current Catholic Catechism on Hell
- "CCC1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" * of "the unquenchable fire"
reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and
be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. [Mt 5:22, 29; Mt 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.] Jesus solemnly proclaims that
he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers,
and throw them into the furnace of fire," [Matt. 13:42] and that he will pronounce the
condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire![Mat 24:41]" ["Gehenna see note 18, Matt 5:22].
- CCC1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell
and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in
a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they
suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of
hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the
life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs." [This refers to the particular judgment of each soul immediately after death. The following quote
refers to the general judgment at the end of
- "He ascended to heaven, and He will come again, this time in
glory, to judge the living and the dead: each according to his
merits--those who have responded to the love and piety of God going to
eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire
that is not extinguished. " Pope Paul VI, Credo of the People of God
on Hell, in
Douay Rheims and NAB.
See New Testament references to hell and hades in the NIV, and Types of Sin for information on who will be sent there. See the material at the Damned
in Michelagnelo's Last Judgement.
For those who wish to avoid joining the lost,
see our pages on Virtue and Grace (i.e.
Gospel Morality: What the New
Moral Teaching of the Twelve
Chief Commandments, ie. to love and Christian self love.
- (originally Ge bene Hinnom; i.e., "the valley of the sons of
Hinnom"), a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where the
idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech
Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 19:2-6). This valley afterwards
became the common receptacle for all the refuse of the city. Here the
dead bodies of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were
cast and consumed by fire kept always burning. It thus in process of
time became the image of the place of everlasting destruction. In
this sense it is used by our Lord in Matt.
5:22, Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5. In these passages, and also
3:6, the word is uniformly rendered "hell," the Revised Version
placing "Gehenna" in the margin." Easton's
Bible Dictionary (Protestant source.)
If you act as though death is never going to come for you,
take a look at
The text presented here is for religious and educational purposes
only. All rights reserved. The images are details from the Last
Judgement at Christus
Rex and Bosh.
Any copyrighted material is used in reliance on 17USC107.