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Pat's Paragraphs

April 2018

Dear Friends,

If you have kept up with the news you know that the Church of Rome has been shaken up by recent comments attributed to the pope. His journalist friend, who happens to be atheist, published a report of an interview during which Pope Francis told him that the souls of those who do not go to heaven are annihilated.

I'm not talking about Mark Finley, Doug Batchelor, or any other evangelist you might recognize. No. It's the pope himself! Look at this:
“Souls are not punished. Those who repent obtain God's forgiveness and go among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. There is no hell — there is the disappearance of sinful souls."

If the report is true, this pope has taken a controversial position against foundational Roman Catholic teachings on hell and eternal torment.
You can bet that news elicited a big response! The Vatican scrambled to explain that the statement was “not a faithful transcript” of the exchange between Francis and Scalfari, who does not rely on notes or recordings for his interviews.
The Vatican spokesman went on to say that “no quotation of the article should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”

The media went into overdrive:

From Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio personality: “It was easy to see, with this pope, that the left is even corrupting the Catholic Church....”

Wall Street Journal reporter Francis X. Rocca pointed out that, “Part of Pope Francis’ strategy has been generally to play down the importance of formal teaching.” He noted that the Vatican did not deny Scalfari’s remarks.

The Boston Globe interviewed Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, who defended the pope. “I doubt he said that [about hell] because it’s heresy outright.”

Journalist Tara Isabella Burton wrote, “If the Pope indeed said those words, the consequences would be catastrophic for the Catholic Church, which — according to its own catechism — ‘affirms the teaching of hell and its eternity, including eternal fire,’ although it stresses that ‘the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.’”

Gwynne Dyer of Canada’s Hamilton Spectator suggests that the pope is trying in a subtle way to change Catholic doctrine.  “Of course” P ope Francis had denied the existence of hell, and “the reason why is obvious…." Dwyer went on to explain: "It is very hard for a well-educated person of modern sensibilities to believe that a loving god would condemn any of the human beings he created to an eternity of physical torture and mental anguish. That is not what loving human fathers do, even to children who disobey them, so the traditional notion of Hell is a permanent problem for many Catholic theologians.”

Because the doctrine of annihilation is heresy in the Catholic Church, journalist Dyer thinks this is Pope Francis’ indirect way of communicating his true beliefs.

A Vatican insider named Antonio Socci says Scalfari and the pope have been playing a little game for over five years now: “When Francis speaks to Catholics he expresses himself in a certain vague and theologically ambiguous way. He avoids explicit statements and thus little by little demolishes doctrine (the tactic of boiling frogs slowly). When he speaks through Scalfari to the secular world , he makes known his true ideas, which are so totally modern, in order to build up his “revolution” and to have popularity among non-Catholics and the media. “[emphasis in original]

So – what is this all about? Will this lead people to greater truth? To question the authority of the universal church? To go to the Bible for answers? Will this lend wings to our efforts? I hope so!

Let’s pray that God will use this little hoopla to reveal Himself and to open doors for our work!

In Christ,

Pat Arrabito
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Mary and the Saints

Our plans for outreach via social media include addressing whether or not the mother of Jesus is in heaven. For many devout Roman Catholic believers, this puts us on sacred territory. Mary is at the heart of their worship and devotion. Rosary beads and “Hail Marys” are a major part of their religious practice.

For these dear people the “holy mother” is an affectionate, understanding, and compassionate maternal figure through whom they can approach the Deity without fear. They believe that she intercedes with her Son on their behalf. They implore her to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

Catholic believers are also convinced that they benefit from the prayers of the holy men and women of all ages who the church hierarchy has determined to be “saints.”

I think it’s fair to assume that most of those who adore “the virgin” and venerate the saints do so from sincere hearts, giving little thought to the theological implications of their worship. Our challenge is to present truth with a delicate, sympathetic touch.

While we unveil the truth about the nature of man, the immortal soul, the resurrection, etc., we must also exalt Jesus as Redeemer and Mediator. We must show them from scripture that His ministry as sacrificial Lamb and empathetic High Priest is more than sufficient for our needs and our salvation. In other words, we should not take Mary and the saints out of their belief system without filling the void with the truth about Jesus.

Please feel free to share with us your best counsel about these touchy subjects. And pray that the Holy Spirit will lead and inspire as we move forward with this outreach.

-- Jim Wood
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