Catholic Teaching on Hell

The Inscription on the Gate of Hell in Dante's Inferno.






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."
devil driven

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 strictly so-called.
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 quickly ended. hells mouth
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 the world.]


"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 (1968).

Scripture on Hell, in the 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. God's help),
Gospel Morality: What the New Testament says.,

Moral Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,

Chief Commandments, ie. to love and Christian self love.

"Gehenna - (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 (2 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 in James 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 death clock

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.

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