The Patrick Coffin Show podcast features weekly interviews with A-list influencers and outliers in the effort to recover the Judeo-Christian roots of the culture. Patrick is the Canadian-born former host of Catholic Answers Live, and he has raving fans around the world. He injects these fascinating interviews with his own distinctive blend of depth and levity. If you’re tired of politically correct media speak, you want to see God back in the public square, and you’re not allergic to having a laugh, this is the place to be.
Is Hell Empty?
Is there a more urgent, vital question than what happens to you after you die? Despite misunderstandings about what purgatory or limbo are, the Catholic Church, following Scripture and Tradition, teaches with the highest authority that there are only two eternal destinies: heaven and hell. If you read the Gospels and pay attention to what Jesus says about hell, you’ll be surprised how often and how seriously He warns us about it. But are these merely “warnings”? Is Jesus bluffing to teach a lesson? Could hell, in fact, be empty?
The influential Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) wrote many books, including his last, and most controversial, Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? The fact that he raises the question signals his answer: yes, we not only “dare” but must hope that 100% of humanity is saved.
This notion has insinuated itself in Catholic preaching and teaching. It doesn’t purport to deny the existence of hell (Balthasar positioned himself as an orthodox Catholic thinker), so much as imagine an empty hell since the Church has no “decanonization” process that names individuals as damned, not even Judas—at least not by name.
It’s fair to say that the main promoter of von Balthasar’s empty hell proposal is auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Bishop Robert Barron. Perhaps Bishop Barron will accept our invitation to come on the show and discuss the matter openly. I hope so because a lot is at stake regarding the urgent need to evangelize and to understand what the Catholic Church has taught for 2000 years on the reality of hell.
In this episode, you will learn
- Where in Scripture hell is depicted as not merely a possibility but as actual unending punishment for those who die unrepentant in mortal sin
- Examples of how Balthasar ignores Bible passages that teach two destinations while emphasizing passages that seem to support universalism
- How Balthasar’s longtime, frankly strange, relationship with a woman and so-called mystic named Adrienne von Speyr raises serious questions about his objectivity and his capacity for discernment
- The ways in which modern Catholic preaching seems to reverse the proportion of those who were on the wide way that leads to destruction and those who strive to follow the narrow way
- How to answer those who claim that the Church’s liturgy presumes that we may “hope that all men be saved”
Resources mentioned in this episode
- Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization by Dr. Ralph Martin
- Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Foreword by Bishop Robert Barron
- Our Task by Hans Urs von Balthasar
- Balthasar and Speyr: First Steps in a Discernment of Spirits by Dr. Ralph Martin (PDF)