Did Pope Benedict XVI preach that Hell is real and only he can save you from it?

To us it seemed at the time in 2007 that the Australian reported that Pope Benedict XVI insisted in an address in Rome that hell is real and only he and the Catholic Church can save you from it.

In the debate that ensued in our blog comments, we stood fast against an onslaught of arguments.

We are willing to admit our error if someone can show us where we missed the point. But be logical and Talmudic. Why would the Pope and the Catholic Church ever tolerate a narrative that says hell is real, that sinners go there but that Judaism can save them from it?
Pope says hell and damnation are real and eternal
By Richard Owen in Rome

HELL is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, the Pope said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to "admit blame and promise to sin no more", they risked "eternal damnation - the inferno".

Hell "really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more".

The Pope, who as cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of Catholic doctrine, noted that "forgiveness of sins" for those who repented was a cornerstone of Christian belief...

Vatican officials said the Pope - who is also the Bishop of Rome - had been speaking in "straightforward" language "like a parish priest".

He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that hell is a "state of eternal separation from God", to be understood "symbolically rather than physically".

Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, a church historian, said the Pope was "right to remind us that hell is not something to be put on one side" as an inconvenient or embarrassing aspect of belief.

It was described by St Matthew as a place of "everlasting fire" (Matthew xxv, 41).

"The problem is not only that our sense of sin has declined, but also that the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created a hell on earth as bad as anything we can imagine in the afterlife," Professor Bagliani said.
A favorite of ours. Repost from March 28, 2007


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's almost as heavy as what's written in TB, RH 17a!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I forgot I posted on this one before.

Different question:
Did the Pope say that (although Hell is real) the fire was metaphorical?

John D. Enright said...

Interesting spin you placed on this item, Rabbi, but your characterization is simply dishonest. Where did the Pope say that only he can save people from damnation? Where in any authentic Catholic treatment or work does it say such a thing? Put up or shut up, Rabbi.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

What? You must be kidding. "Only he and the Catholic Church" can save you. That is the crux of his religion.

Anonymous said...

A quote from the source would be nice.

John D. Enright said...

No, Rabbi, I'm not kidding. Put up or shut up. You've completely mischaracterized Catholicism entirely. I'll give you a chance to cite a source supporting your charge.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Did you read the linked article in the Australian News? Blame the current Pope if you think someone is distorting Catholicism. Perhaps you should listen to the Pontiff's words.

Here is a continuation of that article that you ought to read:

Vatican officials said the Pope - who is also the Bishop of Rome - had been speaking in "straightforward" language "like a parish priest".

He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that hell is a "state of eternal separation from God", to be understood "symbolically rather than physically".

Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, a church historian, said the Pope was "right to remind us that hell is not something to be put on one side" as an inconvenient or embarrassing aspect of belief.

It was described by St Matthew as a place of "everlasting fire" (Matthew xxv, 41).

"The problem is not only that our sense of sin has declined, but also that the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created a hell on earth as bad as anything we can imagine in the afterlife," Professor Bagliani said.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, your quote only pertains to the reality of the existence of hell; it says nothing at all about salvation. Pope Benedict XVI, then a Cardinal, published Reconciling Gospel and Torah: The Catechism in February, 1994 in which he stated:

The mission of Jesus consists in leading the histories of the nations in the community of the history of Abraham, in the history of Israel. His mission is unification, reconciliation, as the Letter to the Ephesians (2:18-22) will then present it. The history of Israel should become the history of all, Abraham's sonship become extended to the 'many.' This course of events has two aspects to it: The nations can enter into the community of the promises of Israel in entering into the community of the one God who now becomes and must become the way of all because there is only one God and because his will is therefore truth for all. Conversely, this means that all nations, without the abolishment of the special mission of Israel, become brothers and receivers of the promises of the chosen people; they become people of God with Israel through adherence to the will of God and through acceptance of the Davidic kingdom.

That is in conformity with Vatican Council II's document Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions

As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(11) In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3:9).(12)

In short, we DON'T believe that membership in the Catholic Church - or any other Christian denomination for that matter - is essential for the salvation of the Jews. God never repudiated his covenant with Israel.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

That is your interpretation. The texts you cite do not say that.

John D. Enright said...

The text I "cited?" Look closer, Rabbi, because I quoted them. As a Rabbi, I'm sure you know full well that the Catholic Church doesn't claim to be the exclusive path to salvation. Your good buddy Hagee, however, DOES claim that Christ is the exclusive way to salvic redemption. (He supports the State of Israel not for the sake of the Jews, but rather, because he believes that the restoration of the Jews to Israel is sine qua non necessary in the escatalogical sense for the Second Coming of Christ and the Kingdom of God.)

On November 21, 1964, Pope Paul VI promulgated Vatican II's Unitatis Redintegation, which means "Restoration of Unity." In it, the Church stated:

It follows that the separated Churches(23) and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

The above passage primarily applies to Protestant and Orthodox Catholic denominations. It is equally applicable, however, to non-Christians. It is the salvic grace of G-d, as demonstrated by repentance from evil and the doing of good works, which saves.

I'm curious, though. What difference does it make to you? Jewish thoughts about the existence of Heaven, Hell and the afterlife are far different from the Christian perspective of a conscious life after physical death.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Apparently there is a discrepancy between what you have understood and what the Australian News has understood.

If you can point me to an endorsed, authentic textual statement of the Catholic Church that says that Jews can be saved to Heaven by Judaism and can atone from sin and avoid Hell without Jesus, I will be glad to post that as a correction to what the Australian News has published. I don't see how that statement could exist since it contradicts the very gist of the New Testament.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, its not the nature of any philosophical theology to supply such a direct statement, let alone Catholicism. Consequently, the proper Catholic belief regarding the salvation on non-Christians must be implied. The authorities I previously cited speak to the issue, but they are not at all exclusive. I know you take issue with the recently reformed Prayer for the Jews of the extraordinary usage of the Roman liturgy. That is beyond the scope of this matter, and I really don't want to get into it right now. However, you may not be aware of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews according to the Novus Ordo Missae which states:

Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is the official Latin version:

Oremus et pro Iudæis, ut, ad quos prius locutus est Dominus Deus noster, eis tribuat in sui nominis amore et in sui fœderis fidelitate proficere. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui promissiones tuas Abrahæ eiusque semini contulisti, Ecclesiæ tuæ preces clementer exaudi, ut populus acquisitionis prioris ad redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Notice, the prayer does not say that the Jews are saved. Catholic dogma, however, doesn't say that Catholics are saved either. Catholicism recognizes that salvation emanates from G-d alone, and that all any of us can do is to live according to his will, and hope for salvation. I personally believe that it would be blasphemy of the highest order for any living being to say to G-d "You must give me salvation because I earned it." By extension, it would likewise be as absurd to dictate to G-d who merits salvation.

This is just about what you inquired.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

The prayer is insulting to me because it implies that I need to grow and arrive at the fullness of redemption "through Christ." As I see it, this is an awful denial of the validity and worth of Judaism. We reject for ourselves Christ as a false messiah and accordingly Christianity as a religion that has no meaning for us.

Personally, if you wish to believe x, y or z, I will not say anything about the validity of your beliefs. Why? Because that would be disrespectful to you. I say what I believe and do not believe. Your Church says to me that I am not redeemed. Get it? No you won't.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, its really disconcerting that your anti-Catholic bias skews your outlook so much that you essentially spit on the Church's reverent and respectful acknowledgment of the validity of the Covenant between Israel and G-d. We do not pray that your salvation is accomplished through "Christ our Lord." It is we who ask G-d to accept our prayer through Christ.

The reason for the formula of praying through Christ is found in John 14:6 which states "Jesus said: 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' It is customary for Catholics, Orthodox Catholics and Protestants alike to end every prayer to G-d uniformly through the same forumla: "We ask this through Christ our Lord."

Do you intend to disparage all Christian beliefs? Not very engaging of you, but of course, that's par for the course for the "inclusiveness doctrine" as defined by Post-modern Liberals. (How Orwellian. The people like you who shout about inclusiveness are the first to quash contrary opinions.) What's with all this "negativity and tearing down" of Christians?

Instead of your knee-jerk anti-Catholic polemics, take a few minutes to read the prayer, and digest it. If you do so with an open mind and objective attitude, you should agree with virtually every Rabbinic authority throughout the world that the prayer I quoted is unobjectionable under any circumstance.

I think you should go back to the seminary to take some remedial courses in Christian belief because you're clueless about Christian theology and beliefs. In the meantime, just chill out!

John D. Enright said...

I forgot to reiterate my question: where does the Pope say that "only he can save you from [Hell]?" You still haven't answer that, but that's par for the course since you do not answer specific questions.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

I answered all your questions of theology and you have turned it all into questions ad hominem about me. That sir is not disputable and it is not acceptable - shame on you. So good luck to you and goodbye.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

And you don't like my answers so you say I have not answered. I have answered you - I suggest (along the lines of your own awful attitude) that you go back to the seminary (if you ever went to one) and study your own New Testament. I've passed my prelims in NT and Early Xity and in Philosophical Theology in 1976 and I've mostly not said anything about how I felt until now. 'Nuff said.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Oh yes, here is one story to the point in discussion:

FindArticles > National Catholic Reporter > Oct 6, 2000 >

`Oceans of Peace' - summary of comments at interfaith gathering
John L. Jr. Allen

Interfaith gathering hears some soothing words from Catholic leaders

In its relations with other religions, Catholicism today seems divided into two camps. One, wielding precise theological concepts, takes clear borders between faiths as its highest value. The other, driven more by a longing for unity than a need to affirm differences, pursues dialogue and theological reflection in search of common ground.

Both camps had strong influence on a Sept. 24-26 summit of religious leaders, held in the Portuguese capital where Christianity, Judaism and Islam have long shared the historical stage.

At the same time, there was agreement here that struggles against poverty, war and the death penalty create zones for interreligious cooperation without tripping anyone's theological wires.

The meeting, which drew 250 leaders of 10 religions from 52 nations, was sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio (see accompanying story) in tandem with the Catholic Archbishop of Lisbon.

Two deeply polarizing recent Vatican moves -- the Sept. 3 beatification of Pope Pius IX, and a Sept. 5 document asserting that followers of other religions suffer from "grave deficiencies" -- cast shadows over the gathering. Some Jewish leaders declined to participate, and representatives of other religions voiced reactions ranging from disappointment to dismay.

The Vatican document, rifled Dominus Iesus and released by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the church's top doctrinal authority, asserted that only Christians possess a "definitive and complete" revelation, and that followers of other religions may be saved only through Christ (see story, NCR, Sept 15).

Tzvee Zahavy said...


Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Wikipedia)

The Latin phrase Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, means: "Outside the Church there is no salvation". This expression comes from the writings of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop of the third century. The axiom is often used as short-hand for the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church or Roman Catholic Church which both assert that the Church is absolutely necessary for salvation. The theological basis for this doctrine is founded on the Catholic beliefs that (1) Jesus Christ personally established the Catholic Church, according to the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18; and, (2) that the Church serves as the means by which the graces won by Christ are communicated to believers.

John D. Enright said...

Wow! I obviously struck a nerve here! I'm impressed that my comment generated such a fusillade of acerbic replies. Just calm down for a minute, take a deep breath, and READ what I have to say before you go ballistic.

The article you quote doesn't say anything at all except that there was a pan-religious conference which some Jewish authorities boycotted. During that conference, differences of opinion were expressed. Big deal. Argument and debate in religion are the norm, not the exception. If that wasn't the case, this conversation would not have occurred since both of us would be wholly united in belief and theology.

As far a Pope Blessed Pius IX is concerned, here's what he had to say in Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, which means "On Promotion Of False Doctrines," concerning salvation for non-Catholics:

There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace since God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin."

Don't take offense at the phrase "invincible ignorance." It's not meant in a pejorative sense; it does not mean stupid or unable to understand. Instead, it refers to those who have not been given the gift of faith. ("Gift of faith" is also a term of art, but I don't have the time or inclination to discuss that. Look it up yourself.)

The whole point is that Catholic doctrine recognizes the sanctity of all good people - regardless of religious affiliation. Why can't you get that through your head?

Back to my original question, which you won't answer. Where does Pope Benedict XVI say that only he can save you? You say that you answered it, but you haven't. Let's face it, Rabbi, you put words in his mouth because you're bigoted and when I called you out on the matter, you refused to answer.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

See Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus

John D. Enright said...

Yeah, Rabbi, I can read latin, and I know what it says. Apparently you know what it says also, although, you do not understand the meaning of the maxim. Your favorite target, Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, placed the famous words which you quoted in their important historical context :

We must remember that this expression was formulated by St. Cyprian in the third century in a quite concrete situation. There were those who thought they were better Christians who were unhappy with the Church of bishops and separated themselves from her. In answer to that, Cyprian says: separation from the Church community separates one from salvation. But he did not mean to lay down a theory on the eternal fate of all baptized and non-baptized persons (quoted in "Ratzinger Speaks," The Catholic World Report, January 1994, p. 23).

In other words, the phrase refers to those Catholics who rebel against our faith. They are not "invincibly ignorant." PLEASE read the documents linked to my previous comments. It does not apply to the Jews and has never applied to the Jews.

Listen, Rabbi. I really think that you should investigate Catholic dogma before you condemn it.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

thanks for your input

John D. Enright said...

That's it? That's all you're going to say? How about an apology for disparaging the largest religious body in the world and defaming its leader? (There is no truth to your headline that "only [Benedict XVI] can save" people from damnation.)

Here's what you said in an earlier post: "If you can point me to an endorsed, authentic textual statement of the Catholic Church that says that Jews can be saved to Heaven by Judaism and can atone from sin and avoid Hell without Jesus, I will be glad to post that as a correction to what the Australian News has published." I've done that. Q.E.D. Now follow through with your promise.

Finally, please explain "He who casts off the yoke [of the Law], and he who severs the Abrahamic covenant; he who interprets the Torah against the halakic tradition, and he who pronounces in full the Ineffable Name—all these have no share in the world to come." Tosef., Sanh. l.c.; comp. ib. xii. 9, xiii. 5.

You're good at castigating others who you perceive to be in error, but you can't take it when: (1) you're proven wrong; and (2) when the sacred texts of Judaism say things similar to what you criticize.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

You prove yourself to be a bully. 2 billion to 16 million - you have the obligation to act in a way that befits your stature. I have no further comment.

John D. Enright said...

You accused me of engaging in ad hominen attacks, and yet when I asked you to either prove your baseless allegations or apologize, you call ME a bully? What's with the "2 billion to 16 million" crack? I am one person; you are one person. Mano a mano. Either apologize or prove your claims. I'd be man enough to say "I'm sorry" if I was wrong. Instead, you AVOID either option and run away like a little girl. I reiterate my first post, Rabbi. Put up or shut up.

John D. Enright said...

Rabbi, based on your apparent inability to respond to my posts, I think that you are unable to do so, and not manly enough to admit your defeat. Therefore, I proclaim victory in debunking your spurious allegations against our most Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

You are free to read or ignore this blog.

Please respect my wish to no longer comment on this thread.

John D. Enright said...

No, Rabbi, I will not refrain from commenting. You are WRONG on this issue, and don't have the guts to admit it. It doesn't say much at all about you integrity or honesty. I think that I'm going to launch a blog in opposition to yours with respect to your anti-Catholic rantings.

I really don't understand your adamant hatred of Catholics. You've called our Holy Father a "nazi," you've referred to the chief Vatican envoy to the Jews as a "nazi," you've referred to Christ as a "false messiah," and the Catholic Church as a "religion which has no meaning" to you.

I haven't engaged in any theological debates with you, and I do not engage in prosthelization. Give it a rest. Your anti-Catholic rant only betrays a paranoid personality.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

One of us is raving.

Please do give us your opinions anywhere else that you wish - but this blog thread is closed.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What Jews call the Messiah is known as the Anti-Christ to Christians. He will unite the world in the pretext of peace but it will mean slavery for all. The Synagogue of Satan is fulfilling Bible scripture.

Festes said...

Even GOD will have a hard time keeping me away from HELL.CHECK MY BLOG AT http://cursejesuschrist.blogspot.com and you will see why..Your comments are very welcome...

Anonymous said...

Vraiment un très bon débat....

Anonymous said...

Catholic academics recognize the necessity of critical method in NT studies. What is heresy for the masses is scholarship for others. The same disconnect is displayed in Conservative Judaism.

What they teach at Bard, Brown, is for another day.

Bon Appetit.

delboy1978uk said...

jesus! (excuse the pun :-P )

two grown men fighting like cat and dog
defies logic if you ask me....

anyway, my view is....
the pope is wrong

for the pope to even SUGGEST that you can be permanently disconnected from god makes me lol! god IS the universe - ONE SONG
you can only be more or less aware of this connection
and there is no way in hell/earth/heaven that i need to go through anyone other than my own true self, to strengthen my connection to god

the animals and plants know the truth....

Anonymous said...

Wow how can we still believe in this bull. Hell, damnation, and punishment for sins. This type of thinking is really keeping us as a people held back from what we can become. Fear of something that you cannot see or even prove exists is what has limited us in becoming more that what we are. We once feared the wind, sun, moon, night, day, lightning, thunder etc. So when will be grow up and realize that this is a world of your own creation - ie. that we are the ones that cause our own pain and suffering. and that there is not force that is making it happen except for our collective will and ignorance. I hope some day we all grow up.