Is the New Evangelisation a crusade of fear?

God of Judgment or God of Love?
I love my only son who lives in England. I am reminded of him in my adoration of my three-year-old grandson Ethan whom I see every day and makes life so wonderful for me as a 69-year-old. Our interaction is golden.
Their safety would warrant and receive my lifeblood – my self sacrifice, without a moment’s hesitation.
A few days ago I watched an interaction on EWTN which hosted  Dr. Ralph Martin (of Charismatic Renewal), and Dr Scott Hahn, a convert to Catholicism and College Professor.
The essence of their dialogue appeared to be that the world had forgotten the call to evangelise, and the many stages of hell as reported by Sr. Faustina were now being forgotten. By Christians.
I could never, under any possible circumstance, create a hell as described by Sr Faustina or the two doctors, for my son, my grandson, or my enemy, whom I am supposed to love.
Both doctors seemed to be longing for the spiritual crusade – the crusade of fear as I see it!
Is there any theologian out there who can explain who made Hell, and why, and why for so long, given the temporal nature of sin and also tell me of the infinite love and mercy of God?
Frank Gregg
Liffey Drive,
Co. Kildare

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  1. It is remarkable that those most sure of the horrors of Hell always place their ideological opponents there rather than themselves.
    Jesus spoke of hell too, of course – but most vehemently as the destiny of those who lack compassion (e.g. Dives).
    I suppose the concept arises out of the belief that those who flout the law of God in this life, and appear to get away with that, must be facing nevertheless an eternal reckoning.
    Having experienced the love of God, and finding that through prayer I can dwell in that love – and keep the commandments – I simply do not dwell on Hell, and am assured I do not need to.
    And, saying the ‘O my Jesus’ prayer, that all may be led to Heaven, I am assured that my church is correct in refusing to insist that the place is populated at all.

  2. Frank, you raise profound questions in a very direct, effective and open way. Thank you. I’d just make two points:
    Hell is ‘created’ in free will, first the devil’s, then humans’. It is essentially the free rejection of God. If we are *really* free to accept God, then we have to be free to reject him too. That’s both logical and extremely mysterious!
    Secondly, and this follows along the same track: if there is eternal happiness, then there can also be eternal unhappiness. We are very quick to accept the first possibility, but not the second – for understandable reasons. We are designed for heaven, but, alas, capable of hell.
    I know that’s all quite limited, but I have given up trying to find perfect answers for the mysteries of this beautiful life.

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    Too much about hell, the number of the elect. and Predestination — Matthew Levering has been worrying that old theological bone, despite Karl Barth’s very satisfactory 600pp. burial of it in the early 1940s.

  4. Kevin Walters says:

    I have campaigned for over fifteen years concerning this revelation given to Sister Faustina and on this site for the last two, which many regular contributors to this site will be aware of.
    Can theology be wrong? Our Christian Theologians are supposed to have Theological virtues (those virtues that are infused into a man by a special grace of God).
    The revelation that was given by God to Sister Faustina and his holy Church on earth, which promised a new splendour for the Church, has still to materialize.
    A pamphlet was made available in the Leeds Diocese and distributed over a two year period from 1996 -98. The title was Divine Mercy Blessed Sister M.Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)
    Below the title was a beautiful picture of Our Lord with the inscription “Jesus I trust in you”.
    But the reality was her superiors had no trust in the original message given to Sister Faustina by Our Lord. They sold their spiritually for an image of worldly beauty and in so doing committed blasphemy.
    Extract from the Pamphlet (first apparition)
    THE APPARITIONS On February 22, 1931, as Sister Faustina relates the experience:
    “I saw Jesus dressed in a white garment. He held one hand raised in blessing and with the other, He was touching the garment at the breast. From under the garment came two rays of light, one red, the other pale.”
    As she knelt motionless, immersed in cross currents of joy and fear, Our Lord spoke:
    “Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.”
    I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the whole world.
    She acted immediately in singular (pure) intent; no one else can paint this picture, as no one else can see what she saw. The picture she painted, sketched, (no matter how badly) must be venerated and no other, to do so knowing it is not the painting commanded by God *(his Word is inviolate)* is to commit blasphemy
    Her original attempt must become the picture on display.
    The official picture on display goes against the Will of God as it is made in man’s own image, it relates to earthly beauty (goodness), it pertains to the senses and is blasphemous. Satan was thrown out of heaven for disobeying God’s Word (Will) he wanted to make God in his own Image also.
    The original picture by Sister Kowalska relates to spiritual beauty (goodness) it pertains to humility. “The pure (humble) in heart shall see God”.
    At the first apparition Our Lord said to Sister Faustina
    “Paint a picture according to the vision you see” and with the inscription Jesus I Trust in thee” I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the world.”
    At first she tried to sketch it herself, she was no artist and failed. After many trials, someone was found who could and did paint it. If her superiors had been spiritual they would have accepted her attempt no matter how poor her picture might have been. Sister Kowalska was very poorly educated and it is fair to assume that if her superiors had accepted her painting as they should have done (they would have known that Gods Word is inviolate) she would have also but it did not fit their earthly concept of (beauty, goodness) so they portrayed God in their own image.
    Earthly hands violated Gods Word to fit their own earthly vision of goodness, their actions were blasphemous. Any revelations after the first revelation now must be considered suspect, as from that time earthly hands were distorting the Word of God.
    The whole emphasis of this revelation is about Trust in Gods infinite mercy, their actions show that they did not trust in His mercy and were only concerned with a worldly image of goodness, the very same problem which has led to the cover up of the child abuse scandal.
    If our Christian Theologian do not uphold this sacred belief that Gods Word (Will) is Inviolate the establish Church will be lost.
    I believe that the picture painted by St Faustina Kowalska with all its imperfections is a gift from God and represents broken man and should be accepted in humility, by all of us, as it reflects the reality that we are all flawed and sinful. It should be venerated as requested by God in his house on earth. This would be a visible act (sign) of true contrition by all the Clergy for the child abuse scandal (this scandal will fester for many generations to come if it is not dealt with now) and for colluding (agreeing) with an act of blasphemy in God’s House. Without true contrition the church cannot go forward.
    This true act of contrition will be seen by all of mankind as an act of true HUMILITY by the Church and will heal the damage done to the whole church and permit (force) the whole church to restructure its self in an honest manner, in line with Vatican 11.
    Taken from the pamphlet
    One day in that same year, 1935, Sister Faustina wrote.
    “The time will come when this work, which God so commends, (will be) as though in complete ruin, and suddenly the action of God will come upon the scene with great power which will bear witness to the truth. It will be as a new splendour for the church, though it has been dormant in it from long ago.”
    God has chosen a practical way that cannot be misunderstood, to convey his Will, to his people
    “I want mercy not sacrifice”
    *(His Word is inviolate)* When Gods Word is accepted by an individual in a revelations it is only binding on them but once it was accepted by Gods holy church on earth and given to the laity, it became inviolate (Binding) to all, for all time (eternity)
    “Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.”
    In Christ

  5. Andrew Young says:

    The older I get, the more certain I become in my refusal to give any sanction to the subject of hell. As for the cult of the so-called ‘Divine Mercy’; I have never ever entertained the view that the story of Fuastina and her delusions is nothing but a gross distortion of reason, theology and spirituality.

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    Kevin Walters, the world you evoke sounds like the spooky world of a cult. The Catholic Church has always tried to be a broad and great community, open to the world, not hiding its gospel under a bushel of obscure obsessions.
    Sure, public religion, the religion of Vatican II, and of Scripture as used in the Church’s public worship, and of great wide open beacons of Christian sanity like Augustine and Aquinas, may not be as exciting as the intense private revelations of some mystics, but it is still the best bet for transmitting the message and the presence of Christ to humanity.
    St Patrick was no cultist, but a man of sound theology and broad vision. His heritage will not be restored by panicky devotion to moving statues, Medjugorje visionaries, and cultic devotionalism, but by recovering the solid foundations that made the Irish church great.

  7. Kevin Walters says:

    Joe O’Leary
    Thank you for your comment
    I am in full agreement with you; St Patrick was no cultist, but a man of sound theology and broad vision. His heritage will not be restored by panicky devotion to moving statues, Medjugorje visionaries, and cultic devotionalism, but by recovering the solid foundations that made the Irish church great and I would add, the best bet for transmitting the message and presence of Christ to humanity is the Inviolate living Word of God, given by His Son Jesus Christ, in the Gospels to his church on earth. Sadly this fundamental belief that Gods Word is inviolate has been breached, by those who sat at the top table (Rome) and what is why I have dedicated so many years fighting against the present form of divine Mercy Veneration as my article above explains.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  8. Con Devree says:

    Fr Joe O’Leary
    Of course “the religion of Vatican II, and of Scripture as used in the Church’s public worship” are among the basic sources our religion. One could argue the case that we could do without all visionaries. They are not the “solid foundations” of our faith.

    But there is the comment of Christ: “In that same hour, he rejoiced in the Holy Ghost, and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight.”

    The experiences of visionaries such a Bernadette, The Children of Fatima, The Children of La Salette, Margaret Mary Alecoque, Faustina, have been given recognition by the Church. They are different from the moving statues. I am one of those who saw the statue “move” in Ballinspittle. The impact on me was positive (we said six rosaries), but that was it.

    The impact of the apparitions mentioned above depends on how one responds to them. The miracles of nature involved were not always accompanied by miracles of grace. They have been the source of conversions, and have helped millions of Catholics to bring the faith from the head to the heart. In the case of Faustina, the evidence suggests that her mission was a continuation of that of Margaret Mary Alecoque. There is also a consistency in the messages of Our Lady at La Salettte, Lourdes, and Fatima. Most of the “little ones” eventually became quite sophisticated spiritually. In pastoral terms the epithet “obscure obsessions” does not explain every case.

    As regards Hell, if it does not exist, would God not have revealed such in a manner more concise than Karl Barth’s 600 pages? Then again maybe He will.

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Dear Frank,
    I’m no theologian but I do have a concept of the questions you ask from a more realist point of view. Do you not feel somewhat responsible for the injustices of the world today but at the same time feel like they are completely outside of your control? The hell that is created on Earth is all for us to witness and those who witness, bear the responsibility to change it. This is both mine and your creation. We are the ones who control ‘the now’ and what we have allowed. What it is to be led out of this, I’m not sure you’d be willing to sacrifice. Spending the afterlife in complete knowledge of the atrocities of our day and age without having actively fought against them would be a hell, I guess. Sr. Faustina’s vision of the perpetual remorse of conscience as being a level of torture is what we mainly see today due to the hidden natures of sin. We sin almost by proxy; always so indirectly involved with the process. But it is there and unfortunately, we are all guilty of feeling our conditions will never change. Is this the loss of God we are experiencing? No, we all still cling to our faith thinking we will be delivered from this but this faith is false and surely another level of torture. Today, I think it comes down to the symbolic exchange of money for goods and services that we predominantly don’t require. That is where the company of Satan is found. If you love money, I truly believe you hate God. If you believe a change in the better is a lottery win, you may be tortured all through eternity.

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    Abp Diarmuid Martin was nagging about a theological deficit in the Irish Church some time back. I think an excessive interest in exotica, visions and relics (even of the beloved Thérèse de Lisieux) is a sign of this. We need more solid foundations to revive faith and spirituality.

  11. I am not sure what the great heritage of St Patrick was – in the sense of Church that is.
    I don’t have a problem with a ‘message’ which speaks of the salvation of humanity realised through love – the love of God, the self and the neighbour. That opening to God comes through an intensifying prayer life whence the fruits of that love flow through your own life into the lives of those around you. Grace abounds all the more.
    All are children of God worthy of salvation. The Catholic Church being truly ‘universal’. Unity comes in Christ – the Love of God embodied and manifest through Christ’s Love unto death, ‘for his friends’ on a Cross. Partaking of the Sacraments enlivens God’s love in the individual, in the heart opened to God in prayer – nourishing it more profoundly. The Word of God allowed to take root in the heart – soil well prepared to receive it – and bear the greatest harvest – loving – charity.
    An ‘unbeliever’ is someone who has yet to experience the love of God. Can we be in part that experience to such a person ? Love him/her. Hopefully not scaring the crap of them with words of hell n’ damnation. No getting to heaven running backwards out of hell.
    I have been to Medjugorje with the same Frank above. I can say with hand on heart, before God in Heaven and all the hierarchs in Rome. I would have NOTHING to do with the Catholic Church and not had anything to do with it ever again or any of its clerical hierarchy – in any capacity/context, if I had not experienced Medjugorje and Mary had reminded me what the face of Jesus, contorted beyond recognition by clerics, really looked like.

  12. Patrick Martin says:

    The above link leads to an interesting critique by Father Robert Barron (no liberal) of Ralph Martin’s views on the role of fear of hell in promoting the new evangelisation. Martin’s book, a PhD thesis at the Gregorian University in Rome, was endorsed by several episcopal heavyweights including Cardinals Wuerl and Dolan, despite his criticism both of Pope Benedict XVI and Von Balthasar for being too optimistic in regard to salvation. Those who take this approach must be very disappointed with and feel wrong footed by Pope Francis.

  13. Frank Gregg says:

    Hi Lloyd,
    I would love to win the lotto – I do it weekly – think of all the direct effects I could have on the poor and destitute here without any salaries for officials.

  14. Con Devree says:

    Taking into account the teaching of the Catechism, the Bible, Fatima, Pope Francis, (on October 11, the Pope said “there is a battle, and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation”), the views of the theologians, the best that can be said about Hell is that we have to pray in hope that nobody goes there. We do it right through the Mass, which suggests that this is an important hope of the Church.
    Personally I take both Fr Barron and Ralph Martin seriously.

  15. As Jesus’ primary message was always the nearness of the Kingdom of God, not what may happen to us after physical death, there can be no effective ‘New Evangelisation’ that doesn’t follow the same pattern.
    For Jesus, God is always present, in this life also, so the kingdom is always ‘at hand’. Our distance from it is caused simply by our lack of perception – any mindset that dwells in the mistaken belief that God is presently absent. That seems to be the mindset of those who believe that a New Evangelisation must be centred not on the Kingdom of God but on the Hellfire that supposedly awaits others.
    “You have always been infinitely loved by the very source of your being – He whom Jesus calls Abba, Father. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your value is determined by others – you are now delivered from that slavery by the Father and the Son. Pray for the grace of faith, and the grace to follow the Son. Take on a new mind, realising fully your mistake in ever thinking you were never loved. Then the indwelling Spirit will be given to you also – with the realisation that you yourself are a living temple for these Three. Then lose no time in revealing this Kingdom to others.”
    Conversion is not capitulation to fear, but to a love that passes all understanding. There can be no Good News that is not driven primarily by love, especially love of those who suppose they have no value.
    As to Hell, what Hell awaits those who think to frighten others into Heaven – who forget how many have been repelled from Christ by the arrogance of so many who claim to be Christian?

  16. Evangelization, old or new has always been about accepting the mission of Christ, to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth. ……Notice that it is Good News….The scripture with the words of Jesus says….”If you die in Me, You shall rise with Me”…end of story…

  17. Phil Long says:

    The person that speaks most about hell in the scriptures is Our Lord, and we would do well to remember most of his warnings about hell were in fact directed to believers, not non believers. I hope no one is there, I hope no one is going there, and I don’t like talking about it, but I have to accept free will means there are consequences for my actions and my choices.
    The reality that hell exists shouldn’t be used to threaten people, but nor should its reality be air brushed and censored out of Christ’s total message to all of us.

  18. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Well Frank you would think that with all the lotteries which have been won world-wide by perhaps people somewhat as generous as you claim to be could have cleared up this “poverty” issue that the world has faced for some time. The reason the lottery doesn’t work is simply because it takes more money away from the lower and lower-middle class than it will ever pay out. You can’t throw money at an issue like poverty and expect a result. You literally would have to hold the top 5% of income earners in the world as guilty of a genocide on the poor. This class system is in the cross hairs of society as we speak. It won’t be long before you see the uprising against the top 5%. The younger generation understand mathematics and the reality that capital gains and wealth protection among the ultra-riche might just well be the biggest capital sin of our time. If this uprising is backed by a spiritual progression, it will be peaceful. If an organized religion doesn’t come forward to take the reins (let say oust their top 5%…guess who?), then the process will look more like a civil war. America is currently preparing for it by constructing huge FEMA camps. That in its purest essence would be a hell on earth, imagine – asking the top 5% to dissolve their assets for the greater good. The infinite love and mercy of God is defined by the statement “It is never too late to do the right thing.” Unfortunate as it may seem, most people only come to this realization on their deathbeds.

  19. Frank Gregg says:

    I wish to thank all of you for responding to my question , and for giving me plenty of reasons for further study and reflection.
    I have been confirmed in one sense that I cannot change the world , but with grace , maybe I can change myself, and this has been borne out to me already as I write this.
    Some say that if one can change oneself, a lot of other changes take place.
    Blessings on all of you.

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