Letters to the Bishop

Abysmal Answers

Your Excellency:

In June, I began reading The Inferno.  This is my first excursion into Danteland, as I like to call it.  (What do you think, Your Excellency?  Wouldn’t The Divine Comedy make a great theme park?  “Visit Danteland!  Have the hell scared out of you!  Get a taste of heaven!”  Think of the rides, Your Excellency, the costumes, the refreshments, the revenues.)  I intended to finish the entire work by summer’s end, but my progress is slow, in part because I keep dozing off.  It is not the Florentine’s verse that renders me unconscious, but heat and exhaustion; my apartment has no air-conditioner, and I sleep poorly, an insomnia doubtless derived from my age and a bad conscience.  (Last year during a root canal, I actually dozed off with my mouth full of dental instruments.)  At any rate, I am still stuck in hell, which is the subject of my letter to you.  Not a thought to console the sleepless, eh, Your Excellency?

I seek clarification in regard to Church teaching on Hell.  After reading The Inferno—some of Dante’s fiery regions, by the way, bring to mind certain South Florida shopping malls—I decided I really don’t ever want to go to Hell, not even for a visit.  (I teach the Aeneid to Advanced Placement students, but would prefer meeting Virgil in a cooler climate.)  Certainly,...

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