From confusion to heresy: how papal statements are exploited

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 30, 2018

“Pope News” tweets:

Why are some people so keen on being certain about the existence of Hell? Do they need the fear factor to be good?

Massimo Faggioli responds:

This euphoria about hell (for others, of course): the theological version of winning is the only thing that matters.

Where is this discussion headed?

  • Phase 1: He didn’t say that; he was misunderstood.
  • Phase 2: But if he did say it, it’s a good thing, because…
  • Phase 3: People who believe otherwise are rigid doctors of the law, and..
  • Phase 4: The Pope has spoken; his authority must be respected, his critics silenced.
  • Phase 5: So we need a completely new paradigm; abandon old crusty beliefs.
  • Phase 6: But why are you saying that this contradicts the Catholic tradition? Remember, he didn’t say it!

If you’ll recall, that’s pretty much the pattern we’ve seen develop in discussion of Amoris Laetitia.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 31, 2018 5:38 PM ET USA

    "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...'" [Mat. 25:41]

  • Posted by: Monserrat - Mar. 31, 2018 2:39 PM ET USA

    Saw a preview in the theater of the documentary on Francis subtitled “A Man of his Word.” Cringed. Prayed that none of the non-Catholic friends with me would ask me about it. Its very existence is a heavy cross to bear. Exploitation at its worst (if you’re a faithful and aware Catholic).

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Mar. 30, 2018 6:30 PM ET USA

    Apples and oranges. The difficulty with the comparison here is the Pope has stated several times, publicly, in the past that Hell is real. Still I struggle. The question is why does the Vatican and the Pontiff allow this particular journalist to continue making interviews if they all know he will purposefully get it wrong?

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Mar. 30, 2018 3:49 PM ET USA

    Not to be picky, but you forgot another phase, which occurs somewhere around 4 and 5: The Pope's proxies state emphatically that (in this case) there is no Hell, and the Pope speaks approvingly of their interpretation, all the while excoriating as "rigid" any and all who disagree.

  • Posted by: shrink - Mar. 30, 2018 8:19 AM ET USA

    OUTSTANDING analysis. This process resembles a form of psychological manipulation called "crazy-making", a ploy often used by passive-aggressive personalities, particularly a husband (or wife) who wants out of marriage. The husband uses this ploy to drive the wife to the brink of a psychological breakdown. She sues for divorce, and gets blamed for the breakup. I suspect that Francis wants a divorce.