Speaking of Hell

Did Pope Francis deny the existence of Hell? If previous episodes in this pontificate are any guide, those who earnestly seek a definitive answer will likely discover that, much like the natural fate of the Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. But before the rest of us have a catharsis of confirmation bias, let’s review.

During Holy Week 2018, the gods of the news cycle gave great attention to this reported papal denial (courtesy of La Repubblica), which was juicy enough for them to move on from their previously chosen “religion news” item of emphasis: that Stormy Daniels proves Trump-voting evangelicals are hypocrites. (The media lords had already reached this conclusion by November 2016.) Verily, there was great rejoicing amongst the chattering classes when noted atheist-opinionist Eugenio Scalfari’s “interview” with Pope Francis, published on Tuesday of Holy Week, yielded the stunning quotation, complete with quotation marks, that “those who do not repent, and cannot therefore be forgiven, disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

Obviously, that’s nuts—or, more properly speaking, annihilationism. The Bible and Church teaching are pretty plain when it comes to the existence and eternality of the place where “the worm dieth not.” As one fundamentalist preacher reminded me during my misspent youth—at...

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