St. John Paul II on Sin, Freedom, Judgment, and Damnation

Madonna dell'Orto (Venice) - Choir - The Last Judgment by Jacopo Tintoretto

The Last Judgement

With all the new literature (see David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved and articles over at Eclectic Orthodoxy) coming out on the doctrine of Universalism, i.e. one day all created beings will return to the glory and communion of God, I thought it would be well worth sharing some statements made by St. John Paul II which he gave in a general audience in 1999, just about 20 years ago. It is nothing but a re-assertion of the Christian tradition on human freedom, the reality of sin, and the real danger of eternal damnation. He wrote:

“God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely,  can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him…Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is up to people to accept freely….By using images, the New Testament presents the place destined for evildoers as a fiery furnace, where people will ‘weep and gnash their teeth’….or like Gehenna with its ‘unquenchable fire’  ….All this is narrated in the parable of the rich man, which explains that hell is a place of eternal suffering, with no possibility of return, nor of the alleviation of pain….. Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is therefore preparing for ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’….hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. …..This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject: ‘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”‘ (n. 1033)…Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state….Damnation remains a real possibility, but it is not granted to us, without special divine revelation, to know which human beings are effectively involved in it. “

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