By Eric Stoutz | September 15, 2008
A CUF member asks…
I understand the Catholic Church has never stated that a particular person has been condemned to hell. I think I understand the reason for this but what exactly would be the reason?
We haven’t been given an explicit reason. It might be said that the Church has not been led by the Holy Spirit to do so.One might then speculate that, because the Holy Spirit is to build, animate, and sanctify the Church, such a proclamation would not do so. Ultimately, however, we cannot confirm our answers. ”The words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel. He speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Mt 25:46). Who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard. This is a mystery, truly inscrutable, which embraces the holiness of God and the conscience of man. The silence of the Church is, therefore, the only appropriate position for Christian faith. Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation” (Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 185-6).
On the other hand, there are very clear reasons for the canonization of saints:By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.” [John Paul II, CL 16, 3]. Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.” [CL 17, 3] (Catechism, no. 828).
A primary purpose, or “the why,” for declaring that some people are in heaven is to recognize the power of the Spirit in the Church and to sustain the hope of believers. Indeed, the very process for proclaiming someone a saint includes the action of the Holy Spirit. We don’t know why, but we know that the Holy Spirit is “not going there” with regard to sinners.