In the wake of the controversial statements on hell attributed by Eugenio Scalfari to Pope Francis on Good Friday, numerous priests took to Twitter to publicly affirm the Church’s traditional teaching on hell.
Fr. Nicholas Gregoris, a well-known writer reporting for Catholic News Service, Catholic World Report, Ireland’s Catholic Voice, and The Catholic Response, said: “If any Catholic, let alone a priest, bishop or pope, were to deny the existence of Hell and its eternal punishments, he would be a heretic.” He further emphasised: “No pope has the authority to change the teachings of Christ in the Gospel about hell or any other truth for that matter.”
Fr. Gregoris called on the cardinals and bishops to take action and help Pope Francis back on the path of truth: “Do the cardinals and bishops truly care about the eternal salvation of Pope Francis? Or are they biding their time until it’s too late?”
Fr. Gregoris is well-known for his defense of the traditional teaching of the Church during the contentious Synod on the Family. On October 6, 2015, during a press conference, he challenged and approached Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher after the bishop suggested that communion for divorced and remarried was up for debate, and that there “might be differences of opinion on that”.
Fr. Gregoris approached the Archbishop after those comments: “I told him that I think it was very dangerous to say the Church can change her teaching on the divorced and Communion”. A few hours after, the Vatican immediately revoked Fr. Gregoris’ press credentials, barring him from covering the Synod.
Fr. Dwight Longnecker, Pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina and a Catholic convert from Protestantism and from the Anglican Church, emphasised that there is nothing wrong with encouraging a holy fear of the fires of hell among the faithful: “Jesus scared people with vivid descriptions and warnings of hell. Who am I to disagree?” He also said: “Using hell to frighten people? We’ll, I’d rather be scared into heaven than soothed into hell.”
Fr. Thomas Berg, a priest from the Archdiocese of New York and who is a specialist in moral theology, natural law theory and medical ethics, quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who once said: “When one is not aware of the judgement of God, when one does not recognise the possibility of hell, of the radical and definitive failure of life, then one does not recognise the possibility and necessity for purification.”
Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, Vice President and Academic Dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in the U.S.A., was extremely succinct and to the point on his Tweet regarding hell: “Hell exists”. That single tweet has since retweeted 218 times, and liked 964 times on Twitter. Fr. Petri also cited the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote: “There is no trouble greater than to find oneself in hell.”
Fr. Raymond Blake, a priest from the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton in southern England, Tweeted in response to the hell controversy: “Without hell, redemption and salvation are meaningless concepts, so ultimately Jesus Christ is meaningless, Grace is irresistible, mankind has no free will and becomes God’s slaves. Therefore, the absence of hell is hell.”
In an article entitled “The Cross is a choice for heaven or hell” dated March 30 which he published in his blog http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com, Fr. Blake further clarified Church teaching on hell:
The doctrine of Hell is essentially about freewill. Man can choose to embrace God for all eternity or to reject him, to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we can choose between life and death. In a very real way we are made like God himself, we are eternal…The choice is eternal because we are eternal, we can choose God which is Heaven or Hell where the pain is our own decision to reject God.”
Fr. Miguel Galvez, Parochial Administrator, Divine Mercy Parish from the diocese of Madison in Wisconsin U.S.A, reminded himself on Twitter to preach more often about hell: “Note to self: preach about the existence of hell in the next few days.” Also, Fr. Galvez observed that Scalfari “has proven to be a great ally to spread confusion.” The last Tweet was a reaction to another Twitter user, Francis Rocca, who complained that Scalfari “has yielded some of the most controversial quotations of [Pope Francis’] pontificate”, never officially confirmed verbatim but never explicitly denied.”
by Paul Simeon, Veritas