FoxNews reported today that while addressing a parish in a suburb of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI clarified his view of hell. The Pope said concerning hell, [it] “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more,”
According to reports from the Vatican this “straightforward” language is in effort to eliminate confusion pending an upcoming release of the new Catholic catechism. One might wonder about confusion from a church that proposes that its doctrine does not change.
However, even the casual Catholic should remember the last Pontiff’s less literal view of hell. Speaking of hell, Pope John Paul II said that it is “the ultimate consequence of sin itself . . . Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”.
According to Catholic dogma the Pope is infallible and exists as the functional head of the body of Christ on earth. So how can we have such divergent views on the reality of hell?
Hell is not the only issue with which we seem to see some contemporary doctrinal progression from Rome. In October the Pope indicated that limbo, supposed since medieval times to be a “halfway house” between Heaven and Hell, inhabited by unbaptized infants and holy men and women who lived before Christ, was “only a theological hypothesis” and not a “definitive truth of the faith”.
It is a real shame that millions and millions of folks are walking lock step with the Pope as their authority rather than Scripture. In order to be a good Catholic your theology must progress with the evolution of Papal theology, even at the expense of former Pontiffs. How dangerous it is to be blown about by Papal winds. Not so for Christians who reject Rome’s magisterial view of authority and embrace the doctrine of Sola Scriptura where God’s unchanging, inerrant, infallible divine Word is the ultimate authority in the church.
For more Pope pictures and thoughtful, biblical writing on evangelicals and Catholics see this series on TeamPyro.