Aquinas and More. Good Faith. Guaranteed.

Dare We Hope that Father Barron Will Be Saved?

by Ian on August 23, 2012

I like Father Barron. I like his Catholicism series. However, I think that this video of his on the existence of Hell and the people in it on the people in Hell is way off track. (edited because readers seem to think I was disputing his statement about the existence of Hell.)




Basically, there are two options here.

If Father Barron is right, then:

  • There really isn't any reason to be Catholic
  • Our Lady of Fatima was a false apparition and the Church got it wrong
  • When Jesus talked about  the "eye of the needle" and "road to hell is wide and easy" he was really j/k
  • St. John Vianney wasted his life in the Confessional

If the testimony of the saints, Jesus, Mary and the Church are to be believed, then Father Barron is wrong.

Coincidentally, the book that Father Barron Mentions, Dare We Hope That All Men are Saved?, is one of only two titles from Ignatius Press that we won't carry.

What do you think about this?

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris August 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

From the Catechism: 1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven: …

I think this is what Fr. Baron was saying. I have just begun to read “Dare We Hope All Men are Saved?”. Hans Urs von Balthasar was a friend of Pope Benedict XVI’s. His writings are wonderful, and I would be surprised if he misses the mark on this.

At Balthasar’s funeral, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said, speaking of Balthasar’s work in general, “What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction [elevation to the cardinalate], and of honor, remains valid, no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith.” – from Wikipedia


Mary August 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Heresy is alive and well…the church’s teaching is very clear: Heaven and Hell are real, the suffering of the damned is real and both are eternal. My 8 year old knows this.


Joe Wetterling August 24, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hi Mary! (I want to say “hail”, but it probably wouldn’t be the first time you got *that* joke!) I agree about heresy being alive and well, unfortunately. I don’t think there’s any in this case, though. Nowhere in that video did Fr. Barron suggest that Hell isn’t real, that the damned wouldn’t suffer or that Hell wasn’t eternal. What he questioned was how many are damned – which the Church has never taught on in a quantitative sense.


Emmanuel August 24, 2012 at 8:20 am

right on, Joe.


Joseph Wetterling September 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm

And if they did rule on all these not-yet-dogmatic points of faith, we’d miss out on all this discussion!

Out there there are arguments over whether we can change what marriage is (because this different looking thing is definitely the same), or whether its okay to kill a baby in the womb (because this different looking thing is definitely not the same).

Here we are arguing over the faith. In a way, I think that’s good. It’s like a bunch of children fighting over who loves Dad the most.
We all care SO much that we want to get it all just right.

After one too many people trying to save me because “you’re stupid and God is stupid”, here’s someone trying to bring me just that little bit CLOSER to God.


Thom August 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Father Barron’s comments are completely in line with Catholic teaching. God bound US to the Sacraments, and to the scripture. He Himself is not bound by him. His love is infinite, and therefore His mercy. Infinite mercy necessitates the possibility (and no more than the possibility) of universal salvation.


Ian August 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

You forget that God is also infinitely just.


irishsmile August 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Perfect mercy does not trump perfect justice. I see Catholics around me arguing that Abortion ‘can be’ acceptable or that the ‘gay’ life-style ‘can be’ acceptable. Was Our Lord merely joshing about hell? Are the ‘Catholic’ politicians who are pushing abortion covered by God’s mercy? Or is each and everyone of us held responsible before God based on Our Lord’s words in Sacred Scripture?


Emmanuel August 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

By justice, God will give us what we ask for. If we choose ways of selfishness, if we choose to abandon His Word, His Commandments, His Way, He will not force it on us. So in the end, He does justice by giving us our preference: Life eternal with Him or eternal separation. God doesn’t send people to hell. We send ourselves by our free choices.
Yes, those politicians ARE covered by His Mercy. The problem is, they are not letting it in. They are not open to it and have closed their souls to the Truth.


Brian Sullivan August 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm

None of your conclusions are supported by anything Fr. Barron has said. It is legitimate to hope that hell will be empty by the grace and mercy of God. But it is very unlikely. If the Church won’t even say who is in hell –that gives us hope. We do know some of the inhabitants of Heaven.


Patrick Thornton August 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Nope. Of course, we can hope that God saves all. Do we live our lives trusting that such a thing will happen? Certainly not. Can we pray that all men, even the greatest sinners are gathered into Heaven? Of course.

Hell exists as a possibility whether anyone is currently there or not.


Susan August 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Other option – you are wrong and they are all right. Remember, to be Catholic is to say “yes.” It is both, and, not either, or. God does not send people to Hell; it is our choice. None of us has any knowledge of a person’s last moments with Jesus in the spirit. When He invites them to the banquet, they might accept, and you might think they won’t.


Ian August 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm

We have to say “Yes” to the Truth. Your proposition is that we can say “Yes” to two conflicting statements.

When you have both, and propositions they can’t say the opposite thing and both be true.

Christ said that many don’t make it through the narrow gate. So I guess it is really an argument between Christ’s words and Father Barron’s on this point.


Joe Wetterling August 24, 2012 at 12:25 am

Ian, I find it curious that Jesus didn’t give a straight, simple answer to the question: “will only a few people be saved?” Could Jesus mean, in His answer, that many go through the wide gate and into Hell? Certainly. Is that the only thing He could mean? If so, why not just say “yes” to them?

Instead He says that the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction. However, can you not turn back on a road? It’s an easy gate to walk through, and I’ve walked through it probably thousands of times already – every time I’ve failed and fallen into sin. I’ve been on the path that *leads* to destruction, but, thankfully, I can be forgiven.

Many will attempt to enter the narrow door, which is Christ, but not be strong enough. Do we get only one attempt? In this life, no. Nor need *we* be strong enough to go to salvation on our own or to “find” the door on our own. We have Christ to shepherd us there. Mark 10:26-27 seems to take up this very question, and Jesus again doesn’t say “I’m sorry, only a few will be saved.” He says that no one will be saved *on their own*.


Ian August 24, 2012 at 1:06 am

Many saints and doctors of the Church have said that Christ’s statements in Luke and Matthew mean that many are in Hell. It is, of course, possible that they got it all wrong.


Joseph Wetterling September 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I’m not disputing the doctors of the church. You’re correct – they might all be wrong. That is highly unlikely but true, since they’re not making infallible statements.

Would I bet against them? No way.
But is that enough room to speculate? One has to say yes, however qualified that yes is.

What I’m disputing, perhaps, is semantics. Dare we hope all men be saved? Well… if not, what does that mean we hope? That some aren’t saved? That’s terrible – we don’t *hope* people go to Hell.

I’m also hesitating for another reason, and maybe it’s the statistician in me. If we say that there are some people in Hell (some quantity > 0), then… who? Can I say for certain that Hitler is in Hell? Technically, dogmatically, I can’t. Is it likely? Yeah. Is it necessarily so? No.

I can say that about every single person who has ever lived: X is not *definitely* in Hell.

If each person has a probability, however small, of not being in Hell, then all those probabilities together are still >0. Non-technically, it means that there’s, at least, a chance in Hell. (Though that pun may earn me at least some purgatory.)

Yet some saints even *saw* people in Hell (discounting that they may have seen non-humans (demons) only- not sure if that’s a valid line of argument). So we can take them on their word.
Ah, but we’ve switched virtues. That’s faith, not hope.

I’m loving the discussion, and I’m open to having my mind changed. For now, I would say that I believe that there are people in Hell (faith), but I hope that we’re all wrong on that.

Blake Helgoth August 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm

3 things:
1. Jesus says the road is narrow and there are few who follow it.
2. The church teaches that the damned souls will get their bodies at the final judgement.
3. While it is true that we cannot know what particular people are in hell or the number of people in hell, the church does teach that there are people there.


Titus August 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Fr. Barron apparently is merely summarizing a theological thought exercise by Fr. von Balthasar. On this particular point von Balthasar was undoubtedly pretty deep—like to the center-field wall in the Polo Grounds—in the out field. But it’s never been condemned and so it remains a legitimate position to hold and discuss.

Does that mean I would make a youtube video promoting it? No. But it does mean that the title of the post is out of line.


Ian August 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm

The title of the post was just a riff off of the book title. I wasn’t implying anything about the state of Fr. Barron’s soul.


Emmanuel August 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm

@ the original statement about “what it means if Fr. Barron is correct.”
I disagree. I don’t think his statements imply any of that.
1. How specifically do you see him as denying the Catholic Church?
2. He does not say hell does not exist. His comments where he asserts that Hell isn’t a spatial place is simply enforcing the point that the realities of space and time are created and will fade.
3. I don’t see how this contradicts it. There are obviously countless ways we could, in our freedom, deny and block out the love of God in our lives. The way of “Fiat” is certainly comparatively narrow.
4. Confession re-opens the stained and closed heart to Grace, it is a free choice to come back to it and continue on the narrow path. I don’t see how Barron contradicts this.


Kathleen Cooke August 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Jesus died for our sins and through faith in Him we have the hope of salvation. I don’t believe that all people will be converted to Christ, because the world, the flesh, and the devil most often pulls people away from faith and trust in Christ. The Scripture makes it clear that there is a Hell. Christ Himself stated that in the Scriptures. Certainly we should try to follow the Lord in our lives and try to keep His commandments. The rejection of Christ in our lives will lead to eternal punishment in Hell unless there is repentence.


Emmanuel August 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm

exactly. Fr. Barron isn’t denying Hell, or saying that any commandments or teachings of Jesus are invalid or aimless. He merely suggested that the idea of what hell is exactly differs between saints and theologians, and he just puts forward his personal opinion as to the nature of it. He is not denying it, or claiming his theory as doctrine. it is his theological opinion, which he is certainly entitled to, and which i’m sure he would submit to higher Church authority.


Joe Wetterling August 24, 2012 at 12:26 am

It seems to me that there is a difference from *believing* (in faith) that no one will go to Hell and *hoping* that no one will go to Hell. Hope is the virtue that “recognizes that the object wanted is not easily obtained and that it requires effort to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way.” (Fr. Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary) It says nothing of the reality, only that the reality is possible. It is certainly *possible* that no one go to Hell, because it is possible that any one person not go to Hell. If God can save me from Hell, when I am not deserving of His grace, then He can save anyone. That doesn’t mean He *does* but that He *can*.

God is not bound by the sacraments or by time. We cannot tell how he works in the mind and heart of each person, even in the last moments of their life.

The vision given to the three children provided no population statistics for Hell. If it is simply wrong, as you put it, to hope that all people may be saved from Hell, then the Fatima prayer is foolish. Mary gave to those same children a useless prayer: “… save us from the fire of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven…”


Emmanuel August 24, 2012 at 8:16 am

well said :)


Nicole August 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

This is my thinking as well.

The church gives us saints, but has never spelled out that anyone is definitively in hell. Not even Judas Iscariot, who probably has the strongest case for it. Given that, can we say anything more than “I believe he is in hell”? Is there not room for “…but I *hope* that he is not”? It seems to me that not to at least hope that in the end mercy was able to get through, when the Church has given us that room, (and even while holding what I think is a very rational belief that he is condemned) is dangerously tilted toward arrogance and against charity. Who of us would consign someone to hell?


Emmanuel August 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm

“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”


Julia Marks August 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

Why is it that people make up their minds about Heaven and hell *before* the final judgment? Has it already happened and I missed it? Have we come to the last day already (and, to think, I still need to clean out my refrigerator).

That only fact that there is is the fact that we know nothing. That we can know nothing. That we must do our best, and wait.


Emmanuel August 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

know *nothing* about what happens after death?
… what about what God clearly reveals in Scripture?


Julia Marks August 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

We know nothing about who and who will not be judged and how. No one can be damned to hell before he is judged. And until that day comes, I think we should all be respectful of one another’s prospects in that matter.

Because if you think you can predict how God looks at each one of us, take your predictions up with Saint Paul.


Emmanuel September 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm

As you allude to, we certainly cannot predict where a given person will end up ultimately. We have no way of knowing if John Doe has the necessary purity of heart to enter into perfect union with God who is Love Itself for all eternity.
What I do know is that if *I* were to die in a state of unrepentant mortal sin, than I am in effect choosing Hell. And that is where I will go, because I of my own free will chose to separate myself from God’s law of love.
So we are not judging people here, but simply holding to what we have been taught through Scripture and the infallible teaching of our Magisterium about eschatology.


Marvin February 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

This seems a little extreme. I’ll respond to each objection separately.

1. There is still a reason to be Catholic. It’s going directly to the Source of Truth, and getting the whole Truth, instead of just a religion or other sort of belief system that’s good but imperfect. I can’t see why, if you knew Catholicism was the whole truth, you’d want to stick to the half-truths of Protestantism, Buddhism, or any other faith. As a Catholic, additionally, you should know that we are not just judged by our faith, but by works conforming to that faith, and at the end of the day, a person who’s spent a life doing genuine good but hasn’t ever heard the name “Jesus”, even someone who has heard the name but rejected it out of misunderstanding, is going to be higher in heaven than a person who goes to daily mass and confession but practices haphazardly or fatuously. It’s a true gesture of Christian humility, I think, to accept that you may be sharing heaven with atheists and other supposed infidels who were just confused about the faith, but spent their lives doing good, and seeing the One they were serving at their death, and knowing him, realized their error. True love is true love, no matter what context it’s practiced in. That said, again, you can only give yourself, and humanity, the best advantage by converting to the true faith if you see its truth. If you don’t see its truth, you may well be better off as a honest pagan than a half-hearted Christian.

2. We don’t need to interpret the revelation of Hell at Fatima as some kind of “Live Feed”. It is a revelation of the reality and certainty of hell. Even if no one ends up in Hell, it wouldn’t be a false revelation.

3. Jesus’ comments about Hell need to be be placed in context. The “eye of the needle” comment refers to a rich person who clings to his possessions. As for the wide and narrow gates, keep in mind this is the gate to the Kingdom, which Jesus continually insists is not unreachable in this life. This warning can be understood to pertain as much to our temporal fate as our ultimate fate. Certainly it’s meant to make us recognize we are currently using the wide gate, and to rouse us to turn back to the narrow one. If Jesus had meant to reveal that “most people are going to end up in Hell, sorry, guys”, he would have said that. The Word of God doesn’t mince words. Jesus had stern warnings, but he came to tell us there’s still a chance for all of us if we’d only take it, and he returns in the Eucharist everywhere, every day, to continue to tell us that. This is all Father Barron is trying to say in his comments on Hell.

4. As for St. John Vianney, this is probably the most facetious of all your comments. A life spent dispensing grace is never a wasted life. I really can’t understand where this could come from, except resentment, some sort of desire to feel arbitrarily “special” for being a Catholic. It’s far less humble to act as if you can ballpark the population and demographics of Hell than to hope everyone can be saved. None of us know the struggles others people face, the levels of their ignorance and understanding– indeed, you and I hardly even really know our own. Only God does, and fortunately, he’s the one who’s going to judge us.


Aaron March 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm

A quote from “Spe Salvi” (“Saved in Hope”), Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 encyclical:

“There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word [i]Hell[/i]. On the other hand, there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbors–people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfillment what they already are.

“Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life.”

For this vast bulk of humanity, Pope Benedict quotes 1 Corinthians: “…If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

As I read it, Pope Benedict agrees with Father Barron that what “is normal in human life” is the purging fire’s of God’s love (purgatory) followed by heaven.


Noah Moerbeek July 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

“We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.”

This statement was condemned as an error by Blessed Pius IX in his syllabus of errors.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: