The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Catholic Church and Universalism


I dont know if there are other Catholics here who would be interested in this discussion. I am also Catholic officially, though no fundamentalist about my beliefs.

I know officially that in the CCC that the belief in Eternal Damnation is affirmed, yet there is also the affirmation that God desires all to be saved, and predestines no one to Hell. In the Rosary prayer it states “O my Jesus save us from the Fires of Hell, and Lead all Souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy”. If I recall, the liturgy and communion prayers all hope for Universal Salvation. Plus I have been told by many priests that the Church has never declared a single soul to be in hell, but has affirmed many saints in Heaven. So it seems like hopeful Universalism is a valid belief according to the official statements.

Now the question goes deeper into the exact nature of how Doctrine and theology are to be correctly understood. I know that in the Orthodox Church, doctrine is more of a matter of experience than in the West where theology became philosophized. So I guess the question is whether the teachings are supposed to be understood as something to be lived, or something to be intellectually grasped at.

I have known that people have varying degrees to how they view their faith. Some can be very “By the book” when it comes to beliefs, if thats what the catechism, Pope, Bishops, certain writing of a saint, marian apparition, Vatican Document, visionary, Liturgy, Canon Law or pious tradition says. I find that the more by the book one is, the more strongly they believe that they practice their religion the most correctly.

I guess this can happen with other churches as well, like in the Orthodox Church can do some similar things by the book, similar to Protestant bible literalism.

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We do have a few other RCs here (including a new convert), and they’ll hopefully chime in. Also several Catholicphiles like myself. :sunglasses:

(For those who don’t know, “CCC” in Joe’s post refers to the “Catholic Church Catechism”, the most recent Great Catechism project sponsored by Pope John Paul 2 in his last years.)

[tag]Geoffrey[/tag] and Father [tag]akimel[/tag] are both Eastern Orthodox, and both are long term members who comment here occasionally (Geof since our first months!) They’d probably like to comment on liturgy and how orthodoxy is experienced in the EOx.

I have long had a growing impression that the Divine Mercy movement (not sure of the correct term there), is heavily weighed toward bringing universal salvation into being more acceptable by Roman Catholics worldwide. What are your thoughts on that, Joe?



I am fairly confident of the following: Within the Catholic Church one may certainly hope and pray for the salvation of all (think Hans Urs von Balthasar); but one may not go beyond hope and definitively declare that all will be saved. It is dogma that all who die in a state of mortal sin (i.e., spiritual death) are eternally damned. Of course, no one knows who, if anyone, has died or will die in such a state.



Here are some things that inspire hope:

Pope John Paul II the following are three quotes from him.

The new, post-Vatican II Catechism of the Catholic Church also gives us to hope that all will be saved.

    1058 The Church prays that no one should be lost: ‘Lord, let me never be parted from you.’ If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God ‘desires all men to be saved’ (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him ‘all things are possible’ (Mt 19:26).

    1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for ‘all men to be saved.’


Both of the following are 100% true:

  1. One cannot say that it is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that all will in fact be saved. In other words, you don’t have to be a universalist in order to be Roman Catholic.

  2. One can be a Roman Catholic and say that all will in fact be saved. Not “maybe”. Not “hopefully”. Definitely. One can be a hard-core Roman Catholic universalist. After all, lots and lots of Roman Catholics say that some will in fact be damned. Not “maybe”, but definitely. The position that some will in fact be damned has no more dogmatic grounds than does the position that none will in fact be damned.

The situation is analogous to the pre-1854 Roman Catholic Church as regards the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some stridently argued for it and believed it (such as the Franciscans). Others stridently argued against it and denied it (such as the Dominicans). Neither side was dreamy or vague or “hopeful”. Each side was definite and uncompromising. The only rule that both sides had to observe was that neither could claim the other was heretical. Both sides could say the other was incorrect, but neither could say the other was heretical. It was more a statement of, “Yeah, you’re a good Catholic, even though you are a blithering idiot.”

(Of course, since 1854 that matter has been closed within the Roman Catholic Church.)

Today a hard-core Roman Catholic could loudly and with vigor affirm hard-core universalism. Not hesitantly, not diffidently, not in a low voice that seems to say, “I’m so sorry for suggesting something offensive, but maybe…” Nope. Instead: “Yeah, you believers in damnation are good Catholics, but you are incompetent dolts! There is no doubt whatsoever that all, as in every single person, will be saved.” The only thing a Roman Catholic universalist could not say is that non-universalists are ipso facto heretics.

Do not let the devil have all the bright colors. Be forthright and bold and joyous in your affirmation of universalism. If anyone is going to be weak-kneed, hesitant, or unmanly, let it be those who preposterously think that our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ has failed in His work of saving His creation. :smiley:



Oh, what a wonderfully put phrase!! Can I quote you, or should I attribute it to someone else? It will be my new signature here. Love it.



Quoting it is indeed appropriate, since it was written by one of the most quotable writers of the English language, the Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton. It is from the introduction he wrote to Greville MacDonald’s 1924 biography of his father: George MacDonald and His Wife.

Here is a link to the entire introduction:

And here is the quote in context:




Thanks. :smiley:



Are the concepts of mortal and venial sin accepted in the Eastern Orthodox Church? I have heard that the Orthodox Church is more willing to accept mystery than to have an overly systemized theology. Yet, I have been told that according to the Catholic Church, the Orthodox holds to no heretical positions, yet I have found they have different doctrines. For example, if I am correct, I have been told that the Immaculate conception is not an orthodox doctrine, but is a Catholic Dogma



You might find this Orthodox article helpful.:

What are the differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?



That is an excellent link. :slight_smile:



Geoffrey, that article says the Orthodox teaching is that unbelievers and unfaithful will spend eternity in hell.



Well, excellent in general. I’m so used to people peddling the Hell business that I almost don’t see it anymore.



Hi everyone - Just saw this thread (I must get on the forum more often!) I’m an adult convert to the RC faith and extremely interested in these topics…Id recommend Balthasar’s book about Hope and Salvation…(I’m blanking on title - but its something like “may we hope all will be saved?”) Id also recommend watching Father Barron’s short you tube video on salvation…he does a very quick-y review of the history of ideas of salvation, and he ends on a very hopeful note.

I suppose I come down as a “hopeful universalist” … I believe God love us all abundantly, and as the RC Church teaches, He wills the salvation of all…does He get His way in the end? I certainly hope so (and pray so)…But I don’t “know”…

Blessings everyone!



A Catholic Reading Guide to Universalism
By Robert Wild … age&q=good goats catholic universalism&f=false



Hi everyone - Just revamping an older thread!

For you fellow Catholics out there…Is it correct that Pope Benedict also has some speeches that indicate a very hopeful universalist position?

Blessings everyone!



On Pope Benedict XVI (aka “Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger”) and universalism, Bishop Robert Barron has written a fine article. I will include a link below with a relevant quotation preceding the link. (Emphases mine.)

“Martin cites some “remarks” of Pope Benedict XVI that have contributed, in his judgment, to confusion on the point in question. He is referring to observations in sections 45-47 of the Pope’s 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi,” which can be summarized as follows: There are a relative handful of truly wicked people in whom the love of God and neighbor has been totally extinguished through sin, and there are a relative handful of people whose lives are utterly pure, completely given over to the demands of love. Those latter few will proceed, upon death, directly to heaven, and those former few will, upon death, enter the state that the Church calls Hell. But the Pope concludes that “the great majority of people” who, though sinners, still retain a fundamental ordering to God, can and will be brought to heaven after the necessary purification of Purgatory.” … aved-2383/
(accessed 02/20/2017)

Therefore, Pope Benedict XVI was not a hopeful universalist, but rather a hopeful almost-universalist. (The Anglican Bishop N. T. “Tom” Wright has taken a similar stance in the past.)

A word on my own beliefs:

It is my understanding that Roman Catholicism has in fact never authoritatively condemned the convinced universalist position. (That is, I am inclined to agree with Geoffrey’s comments on this thread.) It was popular among several Roman Catholic theologians (von Balthasar, Rahner, de Lubac, Pope John Paul II, etc.) to hope for the salvation of all without asserting it. I suspect that this is because they feared creating divisions within the church. As St. Paul said, “if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

I think that the ecumenical aspect of universalism – the fact that most people simply do not and cannot embrace it – is often ignored. We’re so obsessed with knowledge (which puffs up) that we forget how to love and build up.

I would also like to add that part of the problem with the universalism debates in the Catholic Church (and elsewhere) is the lack of consensus on and understanding of the nature of “free will.” For example, what Aquinas meant by free will was considerably different from what C. S. Lewis meant by free will. It is typical today for theologians today (like Jerry Walls or Roger Olson) to use free will as a defense for eternal hell. The problem with that is that only the “libertarian” concept of free will can really assert this. In my opinion, using libertarian free will as a justification for eternal hell is not intellectually satisfying. (Considering that I share this position with a theologian as imminent as David Bentley Hart, I feel that I am in rather excellent company for maintaining it.)

What is the most likely outcome of a universe loved and sustained by a god revealed perfectly by the man Christ Jesus? Is it not, in the beautiful words of Christoph Blumhardt, “Behold, everything is God’s!” and “Jesus can judge but not condemn”?



On pages 2-3 (footnote 6) of her tome, Ramelli states:

" On 7.IV.2008 the Orthodox bishop Hilarion of Vienna at the first world congress on Divine Mercy observed that the Orthodox concept of hell corresponds to the Catholic concept of Purgatory. Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, an Orthodox monk and metropolitan of Dioclea, in How Are We Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition (Light&Life, 1996), shows that the doctrine of apokatastasis is part and parcel of the Orthodox tradition."

“In 2005 Card. Murphy O’Connor, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, observed that the doctrine of universal salvation is compatible with the Catholic faith. John Paul II, who wanted to create Hans Urs von Balthasar a cardinal before his death, on 28.VII.1999 declared that eternal damnation remains a possibility, but humans cannot know whether it will involve human beings, and which. In a message to the general Abbess of the order of “SS. Salvatore di S. Brigida” he defined Christ “the eternal, invincible guarantor of universal salvation.” On 24.V.1989 he defined the work of Christ as aiming at “universal salvation,” and the Holy Spirit as “the guarantor of the definitive triumph over sin and the world that is subject to sin, in order to liberate it from sin.” In his Encyclical letter Redemptor hominis he declared that “every human being” has been included in the mystery of Redemption,and Christ “has united himself with each one, even when the human being is unaware of this.” See also below, the Conclusions of the present monograph.”



I wonder if the Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory was derived from the early Catholic teachings (which the Orthodox maintained). In the middle ages, the RC simply added the idea of ECT in hell for the majority of mankind.



First post here, not a Roman Catholic myself (yet), but I just read through the Documents of Vatican II and was blown away by the sheer quantity and point-blank Universal Reconciliation statements. I don’t think there are many that know about this, and that should change. I recently spoke with Gary Amirault of Tentmaker and he wasn’t aware of this either.

These documents were put together over a few years in the 1960s and are viewed – apart from the Bible and tradition – as pretty much the foundation of the modern Catholic church, from what I gather. I put together a pdf and word doc with excerpts from those documents that touch on Universal Reconciliation. It comes to 26 pages. If UR happens to be your favorite topic as it is mine, I’d wager you’d find this very interesting and, maybe, encouraging.

Please let me know if there’s a way I can post it here, or feel free to email me and I can send it as well.

God bless,

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