This is a post meant mostly for Catholics, though others may find it interesting. I want to say right now that I am NOT inviting a Catholic/Protestant debate. Please do that elsewhere if it’s your thing.
I’m finding the article on Hell I’m reading in the Catholic Encyclopedia a little shocking. Not in a bad way – I’m just surprised at how little official doctrine there actually is on Hell.
The article says this:
Many believe that reason cannot give any conclusive proof for the eternity of the pains of hell, but that it can merely show that this doctrine does not involve any contradiction. Since the Church has made no decision on this point, each one is entirely free to embrace this opinion. As is apparent, the author of this article does not hold it. We admit that God might have extended the time of trial beyond death; however, had He done so, He would have permitted man to know about it, and would have made corresponding provision for the maintenance of moral order in this life. We may further admit that it is not intrinsically impossible for God to annihilate the sinner after some definite amount of punishment; but this would be less in conformity with the nature of man’s immortalsoul; and, secondly, we know of no fact that might give us any right to suppose God will act in such a manner.
It’s not very clear to me what the author is saying, so here’s my question: Is a Catholic ALLOWED to believe that a soul in Hell will eventually be annihilated? Or is it just an opinion we’re allowed to acknowledge, not hold? I’m not sure given the way the author worded things.
Even more interestingly, because it’s more direct:
Of course, he also says this:
But now theologians are unanimous in teaching that such exceptions never take place and never have taken place, a teaching which should be accepted.
Very well. What this tells me, though, is not to stop praying for Judas’s salvation – just in case.
The article is fairly long and pretty technical, but it is quite interesting.