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Good morning dear Father Angelo,

I am writing to you after having read, regarding the topic in question, some answers that you have already given to other users on this topic but I would like to clearly understand what the church’s doctrine is in this regard and how to respond to certain statements.

I recently came into contact with a Catholic prayer group which states that for the souls of the deceased condemned to hell there is actually still time for their redemption (until the last judgment) and therefore it is right and necessary to pray to give them the strength to get out of hell.

To give greater force to these declarations there are, obviously according to the group, apparitions of souls (from hell), which one of them would receive, who ask that we pray and have holy masses said for them. These souls sometimes swear and even blaspheme, therefore it is impossible, even if they were true, that they are souls in purgatory.

I was also aware of the fact that if a believer is subject to potentially supernatural events he must turn to a priest and in any case to the local ordinary for serious discernment. I was told that the church militant is still on its way and that it doesn’t know everything yet. What to respond to such serious statements which, in my opinion, spread truly heretical doctrines among the faithful. Thank you.

I thank you for everything you do and I assure you of my prayers.

Claudio

Priest’s answer

Dear Claudio,

1. if what some people asserted were true there would be no distinction between purgatory and hell.

If hell is not eternal, it means that it is comparable to purgatory.

2. But this is contrary to the teaching of the Lord and the Church.

Jesus said: “’Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25.41).

3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “What ensures that the sin of angels cannot be forgiven is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy. “There is no possibility of repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death” (CCC 393).

And again: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin immediately descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire” (ccc 1035).

And: “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church regarding hell are a call to responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call  to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7,13-14).

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and  watch constantly, so that, once the only course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with Him into the wedding feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart to the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth” (CCC 1036).

4. St. Thomas, asking himself whether suffrages can benefit the damned in hell, responds by first of all reporting the sentence of St. Augustine: “If a man departs this life without the faith that worketh by charity and its sacraments of faith, in vain do his friends have recourse to such acts of kindness” (Sermon 172).

St. Thomas concludes: “Now all the damned are under that head. .

Therefore suffrages profit them not” (Supplement to the theological sum, 71, 5, sed contra).

5. He then states that the opinion of those who say that suffrages can help the damned is presumptuous, as being in opposition to the statements of holy men; and groundless as being based on no authority. It is also unreasonable. First, because the damned in hell are cut off from the bond of charity, in virtue of which the departed are in touch with the works of the living. Secondly, because they have entirely come to the end of life and have received the final reward of their merits,even as the saints who are in heaven. For the remaining punishment or glory does not make them to be wayfarers, since glory essentially and radically resides in the soul. It is the same with the unhappiness as neither can the glory of the saints be increased to the essential reward “(Supplement to the theological sum, 71, 5).

6. St. Thomas still wonders whether through God’s mercy the punishment of the damned can end.

In this regard he writes: “As Saint Augustine says (de civitate Dei 21, 17.23), it was an error of Origen to admit that after a certain time even demons would be freed from punishment by the mercy of God. (T-N).

But this error was condemned by the Church for two reasons. First, because it openly contradicts the statements of Scripture, including this one from the Apocalypse: “The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:10): the latter expression which in Scripture indicates eternity.

Second, because if on the one hand Origen exaggerated the mercy of God, on the other he restricted it. For it would seem equally reasonable for the good angels to remain in eternal happiness, and for the wicked angels to be eternally punished. Wherefore just as he maintained that the demons and the souls of the damned are to be delivered at length from their sufferings, so he maintained that the angels and the souls of the blessed will at length pass from their happy state to the unhappiness of this life” (Supplement to the theological sum, 99, 2 ).

7. Regarding the supernatural gifts that the Lord gives to his Church, it must be said that the first criterion for discerning the truth of these charisms is humility.

It is true that the Church is always on its way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but it is also true that the Holy Spirit asks us to be under the guidance of those whom He Himself has placed as shepherds: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).

8. For this reason the Second Vatican Council in the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium declared: “Furthermore, the Holy Spirit does not limit himself to sanctifying and guiding the people of God through the sacraments and ministries, and to adorning them with virtues, but “one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” (1 Cor 12:11), also dispenses special graces among the faithful of every order, with which he makes them suitable and ready to take on various tasks and offices useful for the renewal and greater expansion of the Church according to those words: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor 12,7).

And these charisms, from the most extraordinary to the simplest and most widely spread, since they are above all suited to the needs of the church and intended to respond to them, must be welcomed with gratitude and consolation.

However, we must not imprudently ask for extraordinary gifts, nor presumptuously hope for the fruits of apostolic work from them. The judgment on their genuineness and their ordered use belongs to those who hold authority in the Church; it is up to them above all not to extinguish the Spirit, but to examine everything and retain what is good (see 1 Thess 5.12 and 19-21)” (LG 12).

9. Therefore the statements you have reported alone are sufficient to say that these are not charismas.

I wish you all the best, I thank you for your prayers and I gladly assure you of mine.

I bless you.

Father Angelo