The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What about the Catholic Church?

I’m thinking about attending a small Catholic Church in my town. I’ve always been somewhat drawn to the religion but never took the leap.

Can one be a Catholic & a Univeralist as well. What do you think?

I appreciate any advice. Thank you. :slight_smile:

I am personally very fond of the RCCs (Roman Catholic Church), and also of the EOx (Eastern Orthodox) for similar and different reasons in either case.

And the RCC has in recent decades tried to position itself, at least publicly, as being far more agnostic about the final fate of sinners, than previously–largely thanks no doubt to the unspeakably massive influence of their greatest modern scholar-mystic Von Balthasar, who was as close to being a universalist as the shape of their dogma would let him. (The late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict both have expressed huge admiration for the man, including for his semi-advocation of universalist hope; and he was strongly instrumental, as were both the popes in their days before the papal office, in the Vatican II council.)

However, the most recent edition of “Sources for Catholic Dogma” still expressly affirms the hopelessness of hell and the certainty that at least some souls will be hopelessly damned. The latest edition seems to post-date the most recent worldwide Great Catechism, so although I have not yet been able to hunt up references there (being busy elsewhere), I would not be surprised to find that they still not only disaffirm the certainty of universalism (the tentative position taken by Balthasar) but officially affirm the certainty of non-universalism.

Anyone who beats me to a check of the recent Great Catechism, is welcome to surprise me otherwise, though. :mrgreen:

In some other churches, it might be okay to quietly dissent from dogmatic agreement without fault of conscience; but the communion of the RCC is so bound up in affirming dogmatic content that I still cannot in good conscience profess communion with them (or insist on communion vice versa, of course) due to several key points in which I also cannot in good conscience agree in dogmatic affirmation. (Even though realistically I know that plenty of people do so–not simply in deference to specialist knowledge, which wouldn’t be ethically a problem, but against what they themselves believe to be actually true instead.)

Which is too bad, because I really do love the local RCC church in Jackson. :slight_smile:

My universalism, then, would keep me (along with a few other things) from being able to honestly profess communion with the RCCs.

(As a pertinent sidenote: when Balthasar’s various universalistic elements, including his particular interpretation about the descent of Christ into hell, were debated for whether they counted as ‘orthodoxy’ or not by two RCC scholars in First Things a couple of years ago–the collection of which debates across three issues, plus selected reader correspondence, was printed up and published by FT in a monograph, available through; their discussion centered pretty much entirely on whether and to what extent VonBalt was teaching in congruence with recognized RCC authoritative tradition. Questions of scriptural testimony and metaphysical rationales, factored almost nothing into the talk. Somewhat not-surprisingly, when I wrote to ask whether I had understood them correctly to say that Balthasar was teaching that Christ was separated from God ‘in hell’, since if so then one way or another he had to have been schisming from an orthodox theological position in doing so, the Jesuit scholar appeared to have no idea what I was asking about or why. :unamused: A one-paragraph excerpt from my three or four paragraph letter is included, with his reply, in that collection, btw.)

Meanwhile, according to the Dogmatic Sources:

The cited sources for what the dogma means by ‘eternal’ are:

1.) References to the Nicean and “Quicumqui” (i.e. “Athanasian”) Creeds (i.e. simply the use of the word ‘eonian’ in the Nicean Creed about punishment; but also in regard to all the wrapping condemnatory clauses around the catholic faith statement in the latter Creed.)

2.) a reference from Pope Simplicius from the epistle “Cuperem quidem” to Basiliscus Augustus, Jan 10, A.D. 476; which is primarily about how “the machinations of all heresies laid down by decrees of the Church are never allowed to renew the struggles of their crushed attack”, for which metaphorical illustration Simplicius says, “what has deserved to be cut away with the sharp edge of the evangelical pruning-hook by apostolic hands with the approval of the universal Church” (and by the way, here is a reference to authorities in the RCC considering themselves to have apostolic authority–we were discussing this earlier in another thread) “cannot aquire the strength for a rebirth nor is it able to return to the fruitful shoot of the Master’s vine, because it is evident that it has been destined to eternal fire.”

3.) Canon 9 of the Emperor Justinian vs. Origen, apparently ratified by Pope Vigilius sometime recently after the publication of the canons by the Eastern Church in A.D. 543 under Menna the Patriarch: “If anyone says or holds that the punishment of the demons and of impious men is temporary, and that it will have an end at some time, that is to say, there will be a complete restoration of the demons or of impious men, let him be anathema.”

This one, if it was indeed ratified officially by a Pope, would render any hope for the repentance and salvation of demons or humans in hell to be anathema (the strongest rejection) by the RCCs. (Ironically, the EOx don’t currently consider the Emperor’s anathema’s to be binding in all particulars–particularly here. :wink: But, insofar as the RCC goes, it’s irrelevant where the anathema came from or whether that side of the old Empire doesn’t follow it anymore: if a Pope agrees and signs off on it, there it is, the end.)

4.) Pope Pelagius I, from “Fide Pelagii” in the letter “Humani generis” to Childebert I, April, A.D. 557: “The wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with ‘vessels of wrath fit for destruction’ [Rom 9:22], who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He [the Lord] will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end. This, then, is [part of] my faith and hope, which is in me by the gift of the mercy of God, in defense of which blessed Peter taught that we ought to be especially ready to answer everyone who asks us for an accounting.”

5.) Pope Innocent III, from the letter “Ex parte tua” to Andrew, the Archbishop of Lyona, Jan 12, A.D. 1206: “The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting hell” (as a key criterion in the distinction between the fate of infants in Limbo and the fate of actual unregenerate sinners)

6.) from the 4th Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, 12th Ecumenical (against various heretics of the time): the wicked who do evil works shall receive according to their works “everlasting punishment with the devil” by contrast to those who do good works receiving “everlasting glory with Christ”.

7.) Pope Innocent IV, from the Council of Lyons I, Ecumenical 13 (against Frederick II), from the letter “Sub Catholicae” to the Bishop of Tusculum, of the Legation of the Apostolic, in regard to the Rites of the Greeks (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox)–although it is noted that the Pope did not send out dogmatic decrees: “Moreover [apparently in regard to dealing with distinctions between RCC and EOx in that area, and having just discussed similarities in their doctrines of purgatory, though not known by that term among the EOx] if anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell.”

8.) Pope Clement VI, from the letter “Super quibusdam” to the Consolator, the Catholicon of the Armenians, Sept 20, 1351: the point of this letter is to challenge the Armenian archbishop on fidelity to Christ through the Roman Catholic Church under the succession of Peter (and not finally to Christ under the succession of Jude Thaddeus, traditionally understood to have been directly or by subsequent succession the Apostolic authority of Armenia); the ninth challenge being, “have you believed and do believe that all who have raised themselves against the faith of the Roman Church and have died in final impenitence against the RCC, which for the RCCs is the same as dying in impenitence against God] have been damned and have descended to the eternal punishments of hell.”

Just so you know what my fate is, as a teacher, if I die without dogmatic agreement with the apostolic succession of Peter and the supreme religious authority of his successors in this world–according to the Roman Catholic Church. :wink:

The Armenian Orthodox, by the way, pretty much had to answer ‘No’ to at least some of those challenges. Which is why, about a hundred years later, the RCC is still attempting reunion with them (under threat of hopeless torture :unamused: ) at:

9.) the 17th Ecumenical Council (i.e. the Council of Florence, concerning union with the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, and the Jacobites); Pope Eugenius IV presiding. During this council, the Pope issued a bull to the Jacobites (“Cantata Domino”, Feb 4, 1441 Florentine reckoning, 1442 modern), trying to make clear what it was that the “sacrosanct Roman Church” dogmatically professed. Among these, toward the end: “It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ [quoting Matt 25:41, which is [u]obviously talking about membership in the RCC as criteria :unamused: ], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and [in case anyone was actually reading the judgment of the sheep and the goats and thought differently based on what was actually found there :wink: ] [only thus] do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward; and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ [you know, like in the judgment of the sheep and goats!–that was in the text, right…?], can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

So there. :laughing:

(It’s difficult for me not to become sarcastic eventually, reading these proclamations. I really do love the local RC church in Jackson. But dang. {sigh})

Some of these things might be negotiated or interpreted around, taken piecemeal (such as the interpretation of the end of the Nicean Creed). But taken altogether–it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the RCCs are committed now, on pain of having to admit that the Popes and Magisterial Councils are not infallibly inerrant about doctrine, to a non-universalistic stance.

Recent apparent softening on the topic notwithstanding. :slight_smile:

For which I am truly sorry. I wish that I had better news. Maybe the Great Catechism has said something different.

(But I doubt it.)

I should add that I believe Christ accepts people in the Catholic Church without necessary regard for whether those people agree or not with every dogmatic position the RCC insists upon agreement with in order to be in communion with the RCC.

Consequently, someone who is publicly making theological claims (like myself) is in a different position with regard to the RCC than someone who isn’t; the restrictions of conscience are stricter for people like me. I would be instantly in conflict with authorities in the RCC as a public matter; and it isn’t fair to them for me to try to be insistent on joining their communal activities while publicly promoting and teaching something other than their full dogmatic requirements. Christ probably would condemn me as a schismatic, if I tried to join the RCC while holding to the differences of belief that I do currently hold.

You could easily be in a very different kind of situation–so long as you don’t insist on publicly doing things against the authority of the RCC per se.

So, if you like the church, and perceive the love and presence of God is there, you should try attending. It will be between you and God, whether you can do so in good conscience while privately dissenting from some of their requirements of profession, especially if you decide to formally join. The RCC can in fact be very very very verrrrrrry liberal, in practice, in that regard. :slight_smile:

Thank you, Jason. I appreciate your thoughtful replies.

I do believe in Universalism while I am currently drawn to testing the waters @ a Catholic Church. I’ll see how that goes.

Here’s a link on Catholic Univeralists that I found interesting. … #PPA147,M1

It starts on page 147.

That was a fine and interesting article, Christine. Thanks muchly! :smiley: :smiley:

(I edited your link to point more directly to it, though. I tested it, too, to make sure.)

Sadly, the 1994 Great Catechism is even more clear and blunt than the Dogmatic Sources about affirming non-universalism (and non-annihilationism, too, by the way). I just got around to checking it tonight. sigh.

Would anyone care to guess how many times, not only in the Catechism but in the Companion and the Introduction to the Catechism, Mark 9:49-50 is discussed or even referenced? (And would anyone care to guess whether or not the Catechism refs the paragraph previous to those verses?) :unamused:

Christ Jesus, though… as beautiful as that article you linked-to was, I just want to weep, wondering: where in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit did this church go???–which the author confidently believes to be “abundantly assured” of “ultimate victory”…

What, did comets smash into the earth!? Did robots take over at the end of the 19th century and trap us all in the freaking Matrix!??

I have never quite dared to believe that here (perhaps at the end of the sixth day after all) the “Catholic Universalist” church of which this author speaks would finally begin cohere together through the sifting of the wheat and the weeds (perhaps inspiring Satan to kick off his final campaign, seeing that the church of Christ in the world was finally acting in such a way that it was not worthy of only being thrown outside to be trampled on by men.) But reading the daring hope of this author, from our hindsight position here more than 100 years later–it certainly warns me again, not to hope for too much… or, was it wrong for him to hope?–even though as a matter of fact he was wrong.

Well… of more practical interest, by far, would be to discern the lesson for why the movement failed so utterly as to leave behind (once again) a scattered remnant of a remnant.

(A topic which, incidentally, would need its own thread. Not to hijack this one. :wink: )

Thank you Jason.

I long ago came to the same conclusion regarding the incompatibility of the wider hope with the doctrinal standards of the Roman Communion.

From a Roman Catholic point of view, Unam Sanctum would probably have to be regarded as an infallible papal pronouncement, and that alone would seem to permanently shut and bar the gates of heaven against anyone who dies without having first submitted to the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (but Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Catholics, with a different doctrine of Apostolic succession and infallibility, would obviously not regard that papal bull as infallible. :wink: )

BTW: Since Joan of Arch refused to publicly endorse this particular papal pronouncement at her heresy trial (a transcript of which is available online), I contend that she was not Roman Catholic (in the post Vatican I sense), and I believe the same could be said of most canonized Roman Catholic saints (who lived before papal infallibility was declared dogma in 1870.)

Ratified by Pope Vigilius and a local synod (not the 5th ecumenical council)–and since neither Popes or local synods are infallible by Orthodox or Anglican standards, not a problem for all Catholics. :slight_smile:

I went back to the table of contents, and the title page, and I’m a little confused.

Are you sure the authors were Roman Catholic?

No, no, the author of that article is certainly not RC. (And I don’t think Christine thought that he was, although she was certainly looking through for the topic of Catholic Universalists.)

Have you read the article? I thought it was very good, and I’m trying to remind myself to post up a separate link to it in the essays. (If anyone beats me to it, I promise I won’t mind! :laughing: ) I wish that this author had gone on to write some other things, but a fairly thorough search on the net a few days ago turned up nothing more directly from him.

I did run across a hardback copy of the book that he refs as being the flagship re-start for what he calls “Catholic Universalism” (which seems pretty much the same as what I’ve been calling “orthodox universalism”.) I bought it, and will give a report later on it if I can.

The Jeanne d’Arc info was very interesting!–thanks! (My first and to-date only screenplay was written about her, and was loosely based on a highly interesting French historian’s research about the political situation surrounding her events. Among other things, he thinks the evidence points to her being a hidden legitimate heir to the throne of France, and that the trial was a showpiece run by her political allies–though without her knowledge of this, because they couldn’t trust her to play along like a good little pawn :unamused: --in order to get her the heck out of the public eye with a fake execution before she called for a new Crusade and ruined France after having saved it. He also implies, though I don’t recall that he says so explicitly, that her chief cavalry officer, Gilles de Rais if I recall his name correctly, had an unrequited crush on her that later drove him insane and led him to start murdering his wives as the infamous “Bluebeard”. :open_mouth: :ugeek: )

To say the least. :wink: Though ratification by a Pope does pretty much kill (along with some other things) the notion of accepting even the possibility of such hope while being in (at least technical) communion with the RCC.

What’s outright amusing, though, is that at least twice I have seen Protestant (and I don’t mean Anglican Catholic) opponents to universalism reffing Justinian’s anathema as though this ought to mean anything official to them! :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

Not all of it (and I haven’t time now), but if you say it’s good I certainly will read it.

I think I’d be interested in that book (and I’d like to read your review.)

That sounds very interesting.

(I hope they made it into a film–and if they did, I’d like to rent the DVD sometime.)

That is amusing.

Thank you Jason.

Sadly, no, it was never bought. Ironically, though, two studio films about d’Arc were released a couple of years later, so obviously there were people interested in doing her story at the time I was shopping around.

It’s probably just as well, since ultimately my script, while as respectful of her story as I could be, was probably cheapened conceptually by the time-travel dynamics involved. :wink: (In pitch-terms, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, only they aren’t fools, it isn’t primarily a comedy, it focuses completely on Jeanne, and has more butt-kicking. :mrgreen: )

Pretty much all of Jeanne’s public doings in the script are taken from the historical record, including recollections of what she said at the time; and again, pretty much all the named characters were real, as are some of the unnamed ones, and more-or-less are reported to have done what they do in the script. The de la Trémouille character is a composite of two or three actual persons, one of whom had the same name, as I recall. One particular villain’s treachery is a guess, but an educated one. The rowboat scene actually occurred, but it was her half-brother, the Duke of Orleans, who did it, and did it before she began lifting the siege in order to meet her and help get her army into the city. The fact that one of the siege forts didn’t fire on her troops is historical, and unexplained so far as I know; so I came up with a movie-explanation. :mrgreen: She actually heard/saw visions of two fairly recent female saints, not two OT patriarchs–I had to change that for the script, for obvious reasons. The main Orleans fight occurred pretty much as shown in the script (including the help attributed in the movie to the Atchissons); the Compiegne assault, I didn’t have details on, so I fudge quite a bit there–but most of it focuses on the Atchissons in the movie anyway. (In real life I expect there was some kind of similar event through various levels of internal treachery on either side, with the same result: the gates were lowered allowing the entrance of Jeanne’s army–and thus also allowing Jeanne’s capture and deportation to the allies of the English occupation force, leading eventually to her trial and execution. Um, spoiler. :laughing: )

The main thing I wanted to get across was that Jeanne was both exceedingly honest (if, understandably, more than a little politically naive) and exceedingly competent. There’s a pretty good chance she would have gotten just as far as she did (and maybe farther, all things considered!) without the (human) behind-the-scenes help she had, as with it. That concept is carried over into the script; people are constantly underestimating her, even her allies who actually want to help her. None of them really seriously believe in her, herself. (The common people do, but the people who are supposedly ‘in the know’, do not.) While on the other hand, Jeanne has just about no ego in the modern sense of the term. She doesn’t bother “believing in herself”. (On the contrary, the ones who believe in themselves are her various putative allies and opponents!) She just goes and does what has to be done, for love of her people and faith in God.

Writing a “saint” was tough; but she really was a saint, so that helped. :slight_smile:

For curiosity’s sake, I’m appending a doc file of the script, which is pretty close to its original content–last tweaked 2005, but drafted 1991 or 92 for a screenwriting class project. I think I can say that my writing has gotten substantially better since then, especially the dialogue. :wink: (I also notice, thumbing through it, that there are still some spelling and editing gaffes scattered around it.) Fans of Cry of Justice will notice a couple of superficial similarities to a scene or two, early in the script. (Mainly having to do with someone with suspiciously clean ‘peasant’ clothing meeting a shepherdess. The similarities end there, as far as I recall.)

In order to trim the movie’s plot down to a manageable level, I combined a few characters (as noted a moment ago) and threw out most of the underlying political machinations from the book (although before shopping the script around I made sure to check whether rights to the book were released, just in case.) It’s too bad, because this particular historian’s story (The True Story of the Maid of Orleans if I recall correctly; I’ll have to check my library back home) is pretty well told and would make a fine film in itself.

DARC.doc (395 KB)

I’ll look forward to it.

Thank you.

Having just scanned through it again, I was amazed how much of the historical record I got into it (despite its obvious Hollywood pretensions). Also, it is horribly dated–clearly a product of the early 90s. :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: :mrgreen:

Altogether, I’m pretty glad that it wasn’t ever produced. Also, I’ve decided I’m much happier writing novels. :slight_smile:

I joined the Catholic Church five years ago after being Mormon for over 30 years. I was raised without a church and joined the Mormon Church at 19. One of the doctrines that attracted me to Mormonism was the belief that people could be saved after death through temple work. Unfortunately, after serving an LDS mission and marrying in the LDS Temple, I began to question the Mormon faith while attending graduate school at BYU. After graduating I became a librarian at the University of Notre Dame. A few years later I began to attend Protestant services at various denominations regularly. Eventually, scripture study, including reading Thomas Talbott’s book, led me to embrace universal reconciliation. Most of the Protestant denominations I attended except for the very liberal ones frowned on that belief. Being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage I could not reconcile myself to the liberal Protestants who might accept the idea of universal reconciliation, but more often than not questioned traditional values and the divinity of Jesus.

So it came down to Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy for me. While Catholicism tends to be accepting of Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox are not at all accepting of Catholicism. And the Eastern Orthodox in my area are very ethnic – if you are not Greek or Serbian you are really not going to fit in. So I investigated Catholicism. While orthodox Catholicism is very sure there is a hell there are various views about who goes there – Augustine put unbaptized children there while some Catholic saints seem to place everyone in purgatory on their way to heaven. The Catechism in 1035-1037 says:

On the other hand 1058-1060 states:

My understanding of this is that while the church affirms the existence of hell, it doesn’t discount the possibility that hell might be empty. One of the prayers in the mass states:

I feel that last prayer is in vain unless we actually believe “all the departed” can be brought into God’s presence. I believe we are at least allowed to hope that all will be saved even if some conservative Catholic theologians are uncomfortable with that idea. My reading of the scripture leads me to believe that universal reconciliation is the most likely outcome of Jesus’ sacrifice.

I personally wouldn’t worry about a new edition of a book published 150 years ago – they are not going to change the man’s conclusions from a previous edition. The Catechism is much more open to the possibility of universal salvation. You might be interested in this link from Tentmaker: … holic.html

I would be the last person to suggest the Catholic Church has proclaimed universal reconciliation as a doctrine, but the actual practice of the church at least leaves that option as a possibility. Whatever your opinion is of praying for the dead, it is a fact the Catholic Church continues to pray for the salvation of all. For example, my parents were baptized, but really didn’t do much about their Christianity although I think they were believers. I continue to pray for them and all of my dead relatives – this is possible because everything is present with God as He is outside of time and space. I can pray in 2011 for my Dad who died in 1980 because my prayers can be effective for him at the time of his death even though it is in the past. I have heard it said that Saint Faustina’s vision included a belief that just before death Christ comes to everyone who is dying and gives them one last chance to follow Him. I have not been able to find any evidence this was actually part of her vision, but it’s a thought at least. So if Christ is drawing all men to him, perhaps this is the way He does it. That’s only a hope on my part, but it does make sense to me at least. If in the split second before his death Christ invited Osama bin Laden to follow him perhaps Osama did --and perhaps everyone does. At the very least we are not to lose hope for anyone. Of course there would still be the purification of Purgatory for those who need it, but once you get to Purgatory it is certain that you will wind up in heaven according to Catholic dogma.

Welcome to the forum. I realise that no two journeys are the same, but your’s is particularly unique! On behalf of the Protestant church :wink: I would like to apologise that we haven’t yet embraced UR! Many of us are trying to change that, God willing :smiley:

It’s interesting that you mention LDS, as only a few weeks ago, I discovered they seem to hold some sort of UR, although I have issues with many of their other beliefs.

Talbott’s book was also a key stepping stone for me too.

I don’t expect any traditional churches to embrace UR. Frankly, I think they are afraid they will lose their control mechanism if they do.

Hi Bart, For what its worth, I know a number of Roman Catholics who are closet Universalists, including at least one priest. As for traditional denominations and control mechanisms, you make an interesting point. But see the separate thread I started on “Church of England allowed universalism in 1563”. I’m a CofE vicar and as far as I can tell, universalism has been an allowed (but not required) belief ever since. I’m open about what I believe and they haven’t lynched me yet. Also, I think it is preferable to be under some kind of oversight and connected to the wider and historical Church, especially if you are pushing the boundaries. My Catholic friends, many of whom are on the same page as me theologically and missionally, often get frustrated at their Church’s strict hierarchy and inflexibility. But sometimes they find ways around it!

Hi Bart,

I’m not quite so pessimistic as you! :wink: But I don’t anticipate a widespread acceptance of UR among established churches.

I’m sure some at least might be worried about their power base, but I hope it’s just that most are simply convinced that the traditional hopeless hell doctrines are the truth.



Father Barron makes an awful lot of sense to me:
YouTube-> Father Barron comments on Hell


Hi Gem, This is interesting for me because I work in a Catholic country. Robert Barron’s article gives a good brief historical survey and summarises clearly what the debate is about. I’m glad he comes out as at least a hopeful universalist. Thanks for posting the link.