In an act of manifest heresy that the Vatican is desperately trying to cover up, during an interview with the infamous Italian atheist Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis has said there is no hell and that the souls of the wicked disappear:
In another interview with his longtime atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis claims that Hell does not exist and that condemned souls just “disappear.” This is a denial of the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of Hell and the eternal existence of the soul.
The interview is headlined, “The Pope: It is an honor to be called revolutionary.” (Il Papa: “È un onore essere chiamato rivoluzionario.”)
Scalfari says to the Pope, “Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?”
Pope Francis says, “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
According to an official statement from the Vatican:
“The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.” (source)
The Vatican says the words were reconstructed.
For years, Francis was defended by saying that his words were “off the cuff” statements not to be taken literally. However, Pope Francis has made so many statements that are “off the cuff” which are increasingly heretical that even major Catholic news sources are no longer able to defend his statements because the more Francis has been asked for clarification, even by fellow bishops and cardinals, the more he has refused to answer.
This includes statements about hell, for throughout the duration of his pontificate, there have been simliar statements made by Francis about the same matter with much the same answer- that it was a reconstruction of an interview and not the words said. (see here, here).
The question then, by necessity becomes, what was said?
To deny the existence of hell is a very serious matter, and unless Pope Francis can come out with a clear explanation saying that “yes, hell is real” in the midst of this current controversy, especially when one considers his past, he is NOT going to get a free pass on this one. Saying that the interview “should not be taken literally” is an absolute GARBAGE argument because it does not address the central issue, which is the question of “does hell exist or not.”
The pope is the head of the Church. He cannot change- either by adding to, subtracting from, or modifying- divinely revealed truth. He can only explain that which is already there. His job as pope is to declare the truth which already exists, and if he is in the midst of a personal controversy regarding what some believer are his views versus what the Church teaches, to clarify and correct such statements. To refuse to answer such a serious matter in light of his past is not acceptable at this point. It may have been in the past, but he has made too many statements of a questionable nature at this point to avoid this question, especially since it has come during Holy Week, the time when Jesus died for our sins in order that we might be saved from hellfire.
The seriousness of this controversy CANNOT be understated. Francis needs to answer this clearly and now for the sake of the faithful. If he does not, then it will be a declaration of heresy.
The one benefit which comes from a situation such as this is that it shows the Catholic Faith is not conditional upon following, as Protestants like to claim, whatever “the Pope” says, because the Faith is larger than the Pope. Catholics have a moral and filial duty to correct ANY fellow Catholic who teaches heresy. This can include ANYBODY, even the Pope if there is clear evidence of heresy and it is made for the sake of the Faith.
That means if you are Catholic, YOU can criticize the Pope, the bishops, or priests as much as you are potentially subject to the same criticism. This is a beautiful thing, as all men are brothers whose purpose is to help each other reach heaven, not to cause division.
The answer to the crises in the Church today is NOT to do as so many in the past have done, which is to start their own cults and communities, but to stay within the Church and correct the problem, which in time will inevitably pass and give way to a new season. It is very hard dealing with abuse from others, and even harder in the cases when a major leader, in this case the Pope, acts in ways that are misleading and even abusive to fellow Catholics. It is not right, and it will be dealt with if not in this life, in the next. That said, the fact that a particular individual or group of people, even if it is a large number are teaching heresy or are just plain evil does not invalidate the truth of the faith itself just as a very kind or well-intentioned person or group of people do not validate a particular set of beliefs by their actions, for it is the issue of truth itself that matters. One must not forget that during the height of the Arian heresy, it is said that 75% of Christians and over 80% of bishops did not believe that Jesus is God, yet their heresy did not change divinely revealed truth.
This is why the idea that somebody gives an excuse of going to a church because he “likes the pastor” or “it has a nice community” is to incline oneself to the acceptance of a false gospel. The best “church” in the world does not matter if the formal teachings of the faith the church teaches itself are intrinsically wrong. This is a major issue with the Protestant groups, for while they provide “statements of Faith” do not address the many serious issues of Christian doctrine and immediately are infected either with the errors of the zeitgeist or embrace any number of ancient heresies that have already been addressed.
There have been many bad popes throughout the centuries. Historically speaking there was until 1445 an average of one false claimant to the papacy that fell into conflict with another legitimately elected pope every 34 years. That means a person who lived to be 80 could expect to live through at least two antipopes on average in his lifetime. In spite of all of the claims that “the end of the Church is at hand,” the Church has survived all of them and outlasted the heretical sects that emerged as a “counter church” in response.
In February 2016, we published an article entitled “How To Survive A Calamitous Pope And Remain Catholic,” based off of centuries of experience in dealing with inferior, malicious, or just bad popes. In light of Francis’ comments, it is an excellent reminder that the Church belongs to God, and that it is by fortitude that the current darkness will be vanquished by daylight just as Christ overcame death.
As far as his comments? In light of the situation for the last several years, a clarification about what exactly was said is necessary for the good of the faithful.
So this Easter, remember that it was Christ who died to save us from hell, and that such is fact which no man can change. We may rejoice, for our salvation is at hand, that “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Seed of David, has conquered.”