How to be “very very happy and perfectly fulfilled,” without God, while dwelling in Hell forever?!?

Yet another bizarre theological error from Fr. Ryan Erlenbush (aka Fr. Reginaldus) —

“Briefly, regarding Limbo: If it exists, it is part of hell (though there is no punishment). Limbo would be the state of perfect natural happiness, and no supernatural happiness [but the souls there would not know that they are missing out on anything, so they would be very very happy and perfectly fulfilled (naturally)].

“If Limbo does exists, those in Limbo will remain there for all eternity — it is part of hell. Thus, Limbo would continue to exist forever in hell and none of the souls there would ever go to heaven. [in this respect, Limbo is very different from Purgatory]”

Quoted from the comments of this post at Fr. Ryan’s ironically named blog, the New Theological Movement.

So Fr. Ryan is claiming that, if limbo exists:

1. it is a part of Hell,
2. those in that part of Hell dwell there forever,
3. but they are very very happy and perfectly fulfilled (even though in Hell)
4. and they do not know that they are “missing out on anything” (so apparently they do not know that there is a God or a Heaven).

Fr. Ryan’s position on this topic is incompatible with the teaching of the Magisterium.

First, the Catholic Church teaches that by reason alone human person can know that God exists.

“If anyone says that the one, true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.” (First Vatican Council, Canons, On revelation, n. 1).

And if there were a place of perfect natural happiness, the human persons therein could not possibly have such a flawed ability to reason (and still be very happy and perfectly fulfilled naturally), such that they would be ignorant of the existence of God. But if they know that God exists, and yet they are deprived of the vision of God (the Beatific Vision of Heaven), they cannot be happy. Also, if these persons have perfect natural happiness, they must have the state of grace, for happiness cannot be attained without grace. And if these persons have perfect natural happiness and grace, they must also be free from all sin, for happiness and sin are incompatible.

So these claims about Limbo by Fr. Ryan are contradictory. There cannot possibly be a place where human persons can be very very happy and perfectly fulfilled (naturally), and yet not know that God exists, not long for His Face, and not suffer in that longing, especially if they are eternally deprived of the Face of God.

But Fr. Ryan takes the inherent contradiction of Limbo as a place of perfect natural happiness to greater heights of foolishness. For he adds the claim that this Limbo of perfect happiness is a part of Hell. Does Sacred Scripture support the claim that some persons in Hell are “very very happy and perfectly fulfilled”? Not at all. But Fr. Ryan completely ignores the teaching of Sacred Scripture on Hell. Does Sacred Tradition or the Magisterium support this claim of happiness in Hell? Not at all. But he asserts this absurd idea nonetheless. For he does not teach on this point from Sacred Tradition, or Sacred Scripture, or the Magisterium, but from his own misinterpretation of the opinions of theologians from the Middle Ages. (This is a frequent problem with his theological opinions.)

Concerning Limbo, Fr. Ryan implies that perhaps such a place does not exist. However, the Magisterium has taught that Limbo, in certain forms — but not at all in the absurd form that Fr. Ryan describes — does exist.

The Limbo of the Fathers, as it is commonly called, is like a fringe (limbo means fringe) of Purgatory. Pope Benedict XII taught, as an act of the Magisterium in the document On the Beatific Vision of God, that “the souls of all the saints who departed from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ…. Since the passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and see the Divine Essence with an intuitive vision and even face to face….” Although the phrasing of this document is long and complex, the teaching concerning souls who died in a state of grace prior to the time of Christ is clear: they cannot enter Heaven until after Christ, by His passion and death, His Resurrection and Ascension, opened the gates of Heaven, as it were, before them. Although Pope Benedict does not use the term Limbo, he teaches as a doctrine of the Faith the same idea that is summed up in the term ‘Limbo of the Fathers’.

Blessed Pope John Paul II also taught that the Limbo of the Fathers exists as a part of Purgatory:

“The triumphal scene, described by the Psalm in the third poetic picture, has been applied by the Christian liturgy of the East and of the West to the victorious Descent of Christ to the Limbo of the fathers, spoken of in the First Letter of Peter (cf. 1 Peter 3:19)….” (Pope John Paul II, general audience of 20 June 2001)

The Pontiff is not merely expressing an opinion in the quote above. For he states that this truth about Limbo is spoken of in Sacred Scripture, in the Psalms as understood and expressed in the liturgy in both the East and the West, and in the First Letter of Peter:

{3:18} For Christ also died once for our sins, the Just One on behalf of the unjust, so that he might offer us to God, having died, certainly, in the flesh, but having been enlivened by the Spirit.
{3:19} And in the Spirit, he preached to those who were in prison, going to those souls
{3:20} who had been unbelieving in past times, while they waited for the patience of God, as in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. In that ark, a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

Purgatory is like a prison, and the holy souls who died before Christ, after atoning for their sins in Purgatory, still had to wait for His salvific Act on the Cross before entering Heaven. This place and time of waiting in the fringe of Purgatory is called the Limbo of the Fathers. (The same teaching is also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 633.) So this type of Limbo exists, according to the teaching of the Church. But Fr. Ryan says ‘if Limbo does exists’ [sic].

The Limbo of Hell (a fringe of Hell) is also a teaching of the Church. The Papal Bull, Auctorem Fidei, was issued in 1794 by Pope Pius VI, condemning a series of errors as either heretical, or schismatic, or erroneous (or with other designations).

“26. The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk, — false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools.”

The Pope here refers to two idea ideas about Limbo. First, he refers to Limbo as an upper level of Hell, calling it, ‘that place of the lower regions’ (i.e. Hell) where souls are punished for ‘the sole guilt of original sin’ (i.e. for the actual mortal sin of omission of never finding sanctifying grace in life despite ample opportunity). And he notes that those so condemned have less punishment than the others; this is why the Limbo of Hell is conceived of, figuratively, as an ‘upper level’ or a ‘fringe’ of Hell. (Although ‘the faithful generally designate’ this place as ‘the limbo of children’, the Pontiff does not teach that children are sent there.)

Notice that Pope Pius VI’s Bull teaches that Limbo, as an upper level of Hell, does exist. The Magisterium sometimes teaches a truth by condemning its opposite. Pope Pius VI condemns any doctrine which rejects the idea of a Limbo of Hell, that is, of a place within Hell where those who die in original sin, i.e. without having found sanctifying grace in their life despite ample opportunity (which would generally apply only to adults and perhaps older adolescents), are punished forever. Those who found sanctifying grace, but lost it by an actual mortal sin, and who also never repented so as to recover sanctifying grace, are punished with greater punishments in Hell. Therefore, this Bull teaches that the Limbo of Hell does exist, and that those who die in original sin only go to Hell, but are punished less than those who found sanctifying grace, lost it, and refused to the end to repent.

But Fr. Ryan says ‘if Limbo does exists’. Fr. Ryan does not accept the teaching of the Magisterium on the Limbo of Hell, or is he simply ignorant of this teaching?

But to make matters worse, Fr. Ryan claims that the limbo of Hell ‘if it exists’ is a place of happiness, even though it is in Hell!!! This claim directly contradicts the teaching of the Magisterium on the limbo of Hell. Not only has the Magisterium taught that such a part of Hell exists, but that it is a place of punishment. The punishment there is the deprivation of the vision of God.

Council of Florence: “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.” (Council of Florence, Sixth Session, 6 July 1439)

Pope Innocent III: “The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting Hell….” (Pope Innocent III, Denzinger, n. 410)

To the contrary of these teachings of the Magisterium, Fr. Ryan claims that the limbo of Hell might not exist at all BUT, if it does exist, it is a place of happiness: “If it exists, it is part of hell (though there is no punishment). Limbo would be the state of perfect natural happiness….”

This priest is directly contradicting the teaching of the Magisterium that the souls who die in a state of ‘original sin only’ are punished, though less than other souls in Hell. They are punished in Hell, but with unequal pains. What is the punishment of the Limbo of Hell? According to the Magisterium, it is the deprivation of the vision of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that: “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (n. 1035). And Pope Innocent III taught that those who die in a state of original sin have this chief punishment. So the punishment given in the Limbo of Hell is a weighty punishment, it is the worst (chief) type of punishment out of all the punishments throughout Hell: the deprivation of God and of Heaven.

But Fr. Ryan claims that the souls in the Limbo of Hell are “very very happy” without the vision of God, that they are not being punished, and yet they are in Hell and will never see God (nor apparently even long for Him).

The Church teaches that both the Limbo of the Fathers and the Limbo of Hell exist. But Fr. Ryan says this: “we must note that, even if one were to deny the existence of limbo (which Catholics are indeed quite free to do)….” Despite the teachings of Pope Benedict XII, Pope John Paul II, Pope Innocent III, Pope Pius VI, and the Council of Florence, of which Fr. Ryan appears to be entirely ignorant, he instructs his readers that they are free to deny the existence of Limbo.

He also instructs them, contrary to the teaching of the Church, that if a person dies in a state of original sin only, they go to a place of perfect happiness, but only if such a place exists. What if, as he sees it, Limbo does not exist? What then happens to those who die in a state of original sin? Fr. Ryan states that they cannot possibly go to Heaven. So we are left to conclude that they go to Hell. But if Fr. Ryan’s mythical happy-limbo-of-hell does not exist, then they must go to Hell to be punished. So we are left with the absurd twofold possibility, that, in Fr. Ryan’s view, those who die in a state of original sin certainly go to Hell, but either they go there to be happy forever, or to be punished forever.

UPDATE: Fr. Ryan continues to defend this absurd claim about happiness in Hell in this new post.

In summary, Fr. Ryan’s stated position on Limbo is contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium on this topic, and, moreover, is absurd and self-contradictory.

Advertisements
Gallery | This entry was posted in arguments, salvation. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to be “very very happy and perfectly fulfilled,” without God, while dwelling in Hell forever?!?

  1. Linda Pollock says:

    It is more and more evident that we must “pray for our priests” as Mary has told us for decades. They are not immune to satan’s attacks – but they can have Mercy poured upon them especially in these times. It is painful to read and hear the many errors from every direction today. But especially so, and especially harmful when coming from a Catholic priest. What satan means for evil – God can use for good. Divine Mercy on sinners for conversion and Divine Mercy on the righteous for perseverance. God be with us…..

  2. Jonathan Simcoe says:

    Fr Ryan Erlenbush’s position : He also instructs them, contrary to the teaching of the Church, that if a person dies in a state of original sin only, they go to a place of perfect happiness, but only if such a place exists. What if, as he sees it, Limbo does not exist? What then happens to those who die in a state of original sin? Fr. Ryan states that they cannot possibly go to Heaven. So we are left to conclude that they go to Hell.

    This misconception, in my view, really underlines a kind theology that attempts to take into account what happens, for instance, to a child who is innocently put to death (i.e by abortion). This non baptized infant (who retains original sin) would, if we are to follow Fr. Ryan’s view, go to this mythical place (limbo) in hell where they would be happy. In short, this is a pharisaic approach in respect to God’s mercy. Secondly, it is not possible to be in Hell and yet be ”happy”. In conclusion, would God send aborted children to Hell ? I don’t think so.

Comments are closed.