Concerning the drama of souls falling into Hell (and many choose to do so - Mt.VII, 13; XXII, 14), a reader raises a classic problem which can be framed briefly as follows. Either God wants souls to be damned, or he doesn’t. If he does want it, he is cruel. If he does not want it, yet it still happens, then he is not omnipotent. Then is he cruel, or is he not omnipotent ? Which ?
Let us establish immediately that God sends no soul to Hell. Every one of the many souls damned sent itself to Hell by the series of choices that it made freely during its time on earth. God gave to it life, time and free-will, and also any number of natural helps and supernatural graces to persuade it to choose to go to Heaven, but if it refused, then God let it have what it wanted, namely an eternity without him. And that loss of God, for a soul made by God only to possess God, is by far its cruellest suffering in Hell. Thus God wished that the soul might choose Heaven (“He will have all men to be saved” - I Tim. II, 4), but he wantedto allow the evil of its choosing Hell in order to bring out of that evil a greater good.
Notice the use made here of the two English words, “wish” and “want”. To “want” something is more full-blooded than merely to “wish” it. Thus a family father may well not wish his son to suffer harsh experience in life, but in view of all the circumstances he can wantto let him suffer because he knows that that is the only way his son will learn. Similarly in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father did not wish to let his younger son leave home and squander his heritage, but he wanted to let him do so because that is what the father in fact did, and good did come of it - the return home of the son, now repentant, a sadder but wiser young man.
In the same way God wishes on the one hand all souls to be saved, because that is what he created them for, and that is why he died for all of them on the Cross, where one large part of his suffering lay precisely in his knowing how many souls would not choose to profit by their Redemption to be saved. Such a God can in no way be considered or called cruel ! On the other hand God does not want all souls to be saved unless they also want it, because if he did, they would all be saved, because he is all-powerful, or omnipotent. But, given all the circumstances, that would mean in effect overriding the free choice of those who, left to themselves, would choose not to be saved, and that would mean trampling on their free-will. Now just see how passionately men themselves value their free-will, when you see how they dislike being given orders or like being independent. They know that their free-will is the proof that they are not just animals or robots. So God to o prefers his Heaven to be populated with men and not just with animals or robots, and that is why he does not wantall men to be saved unless they also want it..
Yet God does not want souls to be damned, because that again would be cruelty on his part. He only wants to allow them to be damned, in view of the circumstances that souls will thus have the eternity of their own choice, and he will have a Heaven of human beings and not just animals or robots.
Thus his wish to save all souls means that he is by no means cruel, while the damnation of many souls proves on his part not a lack of omnipotence, but a choice to value his creatures’ free-will, and the infinite delight that he takes in rewarding with Heaven souls that have chosen to love him on earth.
Mother of God, now and in the hour of my death, help me to love your Son and to choose Heaven !
ELEISON COMMENTS 266
The scorn of “doctrine” is an immense problem today. The “best” of Catholics in our 21st century pay lip-service to the importance of “doctrine”, but in their modern bones they feel instinctively that even Catholic doctrine is some kind of prison for their minds, and minds must not be imprisoned. In Washington, D.C., around the interior dome of the Jefferson Memorial, that quasi-religious temple of the United States’ champion of liberty, runs his quasi-religious quotation: I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. Surely he had Catholic doctrine in mind, amongst others. Modern man’s quasi-religion excludes having any fixed doctrine.
However, a sentence from the “Eleison Comments” of two weeks ago ( EC 263, July 28) gives a different angle on the nature and importance of “doctrine”. It ran: So long as Rome believes in its Conciliar doctrine, it is bound to use any such (“non-doctrinal”) agreement to pull the SSPX in the direction of the (Second Vatican) Council. In other words what drives Rome supposedly to discount “doctrine” and at all costs to conciliarize the SSPX is their own belief in their own Conciliar doctrine. As Traditional Catholic doctrine is - one hopes - the driving force of the SSPX, so Conciliar doctrine is the driving force of Rome. The two doctrines clash, but each of them is a driving force.
In other words, “doctrine” is not just a set of ideas in a man’s head, or a mental prison. Whatever ideas a man chooses to hold in his head, his real doctrine is that set of ideas that drives his life. Now a man may change that set of ideas, but he cannot not have one. Here is how Aristotle put it: “If you want to philosophize, then you have to philosophize. If you don’t want to philosophize, you still have to philosophize. In any case a man has to philosophize.” Similarly, liberals may scorn any set of ideas as a tyranny, but to hold any set of ideas to be a tyranny is still a major idea, and it is the one idea that drives the lives of zillions of liberals today, and of all too many Catholics. These should know better, but all of us moderns have the worship of liberty in our bloodstream.
Thus doctrine in its real sense is not just an imprisoning set of ideas, but that central notion of God, man and life that directs the life of every man alive. Even if a man is committing suicide, he is being driven by the idea that life is too miserable to be worth continuing. A notion of life centred on money may drive a man to become rich; on pleasure to become a rake; on recognition to become famous, and so on. But however a man centrally conceives life, that concept is his real doctrine.
Thus conciliar Romans are driven by Vatican II as being their central notion to undo the SSPX that rejects Vatican II, and until they either succeed or change that central notion, they will continue to be driven to dissolve Archbishop Lefebvre’s SSPX. On the contrary the central drive of clergy and laity of the SSPX should be to get to Heaven, the idea being that Heaven and Hell exist, and Jesus Christ and his true Church provide the one and only sure way of getting to Heaven. This driving doctrine they know to be no fanciful invention of their own, and that is why they do not want it to be undermined or subverted or corrupted by the wretched neo-modernists of the Newchurch, driven by their false conciliar notion of God, man and life. The clash is total.
Nor can it be avoided, as liberals dream it can. If falsehoods win, eventually even the stones of the street will cry out (Lk.XIX, 40). If Truth wins, still Satan will go on raising error after error, until the world ends. But “He that perseveres to the end will be saved”, says Our Lord (Mt.XXIV, 13).