The main purpose of today's post is as a sort of note to myself for future reference. Due to the fact that part of what I am writing about is found (in English) only on the internet this seemed like the best place to make a note of it. But in addition to it being a note to myself, it is also interesting what the two people (Stratford Caldecott and Don Gabriele Amorth) have to say about hell.
In am nearing the end of Stratford Caldecott's wonderful book The Radiance of Being. Yesterday, I finished reading the chapter titled Time, Eternity, Hell. Basically this chapter has to do with how evil is possible even though God is all good, why mankind sins (and why the angels sinned), and the Christian teaching of eternal punishment in hell for those who reject God. Needless to say this is a difficult topic to tackle in one chapter. But like the rest of the book, the author had some very interesting insights that he deduced from his own reading of several other authors about the subject. While discussing something from the Catholic theologian von Balthasar he writes,
Hell is a Trinitarian event because everything that is created, hell not excepted, must have its archetype in the eternal Principle.
The Radiance of Being, p.246
Due to the fact that I do not understand the author's ideas well enough it would be very difficult for me to explain what he is trying to say here in the context of the rest of the chapter. But really what he 'means' in this passage (and the chapter) is not what I wanted to dispute. My dispute comes from his apparent presupposition that hell was created directly by God as a place of punishment.
Before moving on to what Don Gabriele Amorth has to say I will give my own understanding. I could not find anything in the Catechism stating whether or not God directly created hell. And (to me) it doesn't really make sense to say that He created hell because hell is not a good thing and we know that God, being all Good, only makes things that are good. In other words, only good can come from God. My understanding is that hell is the place, or non-place, from which God has withdrawn His presence completely so that it is not really a place that was 'created' at all.
But, on the other hand, nothing can exist without God willing it. Therefore, perhaps hell is a realm that was orginially created good by God, but then, like those who inhabit hell, it was twisted and perverted by sin. Then, after it was distorted by sin and the damned started to inhabit it, God removed Himself completely from that realm. Therefore, it is the 'place' for those who have definitively rejected God – a 'place' completely devoid of God or anything that is good.
This idea–that of complete separation from God–is supported by the Catechism in the few sections that it contains about hell. In §1033 it tells us, “This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.'” In §1034 it quotes the words of our Lord from Matthew 25:41, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!” In §1035 it states that the “chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.” And finally in §1861 we are told if mortal sin “is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell.” But on the question of whether or not it was created by God–either directly as a place of punishment or something that was originally good and then twisted–the Catechism appears to be silent. (Unless I am overlooking something which is quite possible.)
Lastly, I want to quote what Don Gabriele Amorth has to say about the subject. But first a little information about Fr. Amorth–he is the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome and has been an exorcist for many years. The interview located here is where I found the following quote. (Here he is discussing the priest who trained him.)
Was Fr. Candido ironic even with the devil?
I want to tell you about one very important episode to help you understand a truth. You need to know that when there’s a case of diabolical possession, there is a dialogue between the exorcist and the devil. Satan is a great liar, but sometimes the Lord obliges him to tell the truth. Once Fr. Candido was liberating a person after many exorcisms and with his typical irony he told the devil: “Go away for the Lord has created a nice warm home for you, he has prepared a little house for you where you won’t suffer from the cold”. However, the devil interrupted him and replied: “You don’t know anything”.
What did he mean?
When the devil interrupts with a saying like this, it means that God has obliged him to tell the truth. And this time it was extremely important. The faithful often ask me: “But how is it possible that God created Hell, why did he think of a place of suffering?”. And so that time the devil responded to the provocations of Fr. Candido by revealing an important truth about Hell: “It was not Him, God, who created Hell! It was us. He hadn’t even thought of it!” Therefore in the plan of God’s creation the existence of Hell had not been contemplated. The demons created it! During exorcisms, I have also often asked the devil: “Did you create Hell?”. And his response has always been the same: “We all cooperated”.
This seems to shed some light on the subject with the exception that the Church teaches that the devil cannot create anything. Only God can create. Of course, in a certain sense man can 'create' things–artwork, poetry, literature, etc.–but only by using that which God has already created. And of course man can take those good things and twist them for evil purposes. And that seems to be the only explanation for what the devil says in the above quote: the demons took something that was good and 'redecorated' to their own hideous liking.
(There is one other possible explanation for hell which I mention here parenthetically. I suppose hell could be considered 'good' in the following way. God is completely good and God's justice is a part of what makes up the good of who He is. Punishment for the condemned is a part of justice (although I can't find anything in the Catechism to confirm this). Therefore, perhaps the punishment of hell is a good from God's point of view. Although, it is not a good I want to partake of.)