What People Are Asking
What Are the Progressivist Concepts of
Heaven, Hell & Purgatory?
Please write an article on this new development in the Church that I have listed below. When I read this I realized once and for all the devastation laid upon us Catholics as a result of the promulgation of the principles set forth in the Second Vatican Council - especially as expounded and set forth by late Pope John Paul II:
“In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him.”
PS - I am a 'former' Catholic and shall return at another more propitious time - perhaps in heaven.
You would do better by returning to be a good and militant Catholic before you die; otherwise you probably will have an eternity to regret that you did not.
Regarding the quotation you sent us, we can give you the progressivist theses on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory as a background. Then you may apply it to pontifical statements made by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI in order to understand what they are saying. We will first provide you a synthesis of the Catholic teaching on these matters.
The Catholic perspective
The Catholic doctrine on Heaven, Hell & Purgatory is quite easy to understand and proceeds from the idea that God is a personal being who created the whole universe distinct from Himself and invited angels and man to share His eternal glory. God gave those creatures a trial to see if they deserved that award. The angels were put to test in the beginning of time; a part passed the test, and another revolted against God and did not pass.
God, who is not only good but Goodness itself, remunerated those who accepted His invitation. On the other hand, He, who is also not only just but Justice itself, consequently punished the angels who revolted. Instead of being close to Him, they were cast away from Him. God as He who rewards and punishes is known as God the Remunerator.
So far, we already have the need for two different spheres in the universe where the good and evil angels should normally stay. They are at least spiritual spheres, because spiritual creatures do not necessarily need a physical place to be rewarded or punished.
The second group of creatures invited to share eternal glory with God were men, composed of soul and body. Different from the Angels who have a will that decides at once and forever what they love or hate without the possibility of change, men have a changeable will that can either reject what they first loved or love what they first rejected. Hence, the test for a human being takes place for as long as he lives and is only decided when he departs this life.
God the Remunerator receives those who died and successfully passed the test and shares His glory with them; He sends away from Him those who despised His invitation. Now then, since man has body and soul, his perfect reward or punishment must be both spiritual and material. Therefore, God, who acts perfectly in everything, made distinct material places for both the good and the evil men to stay after their judgment.
This good material place is called Heaven and the evil material place is called Hell. They are a necessity for the perfect reward and punishment God prepared for men.
This is the fundamental philosophical reasoning that proves the need for two different material places to award and punish men.
This basic argument is easily strengthened by others that are equally conclusive:
The existence of Purgatory comes from the fact that some men ended their lives well, but had many things that needed to be cleansed before they were fit to sit at the table of the eternal banquet with Our Lord and Our Lady. Again, it is a demand of God the Remunerator. No one goes to a feast with his shoes soiled and muddy from the road after a long journey. He needs to bathe and change his clothes to become suitable to meet his hosts. So a place of purification is indispensable for those who are not entirely clean.
- Our Lord took on human flesh and resurrected in a human body and soul united with the Eternal Word. Therefore, He also needs a material place to stay in accordance with the requirements of His perfect human-divine nature. This place is Heaven.
- The Angels who were in the spiritual sphere adoring God are also in the material Heaven - at least after the resurrection of Our Lord - to glorify and serve Our Lord and Our Lady, their King and Queen.
- Since Jesus Christ is God and Man, it is from a material place, Heaven, that He governs the universe He created. This government is conducted through the action of the Angels and the Saints.
- As Heaven is the center of action of the Angels to give more glory to God and to help men win their battles on earth, so Hell is symmetrically the center of the action of the Devil and his rebellious angels who try to destroy the glory of God in the universe and lead men to perdition.
For Progressivism, however, almost everything is different, although it uses the same language of Catholic theology.
For it, God is not a personal being distinct from the universe. Christ the Alpha or Christ the Logos is the same thing as the universe. According to its thinking, in the beginning the universe was a mixture of spirit and matter in a state of chaos but with time, through a continuous evolution, that chaotic stage ended and became increasingly ordered. It evolved from matter to vegetal life, then to animal life, and finally to human life.
The evolving matter continuously liberates energy. This energy accumulates somewhere in the universe, like clouds that accumulate the vapors of water released from the earth. Thus, we have spheres of liberated energy interacting with the material universe to accelerate the process of evolution. After men emerged as a fruit of this process, these spheres of energy increased and the interaction between them and human life on earth became more intense.
Being rational, man invented religions and gave those spheres of energies various names, calling them heaven or hell and attributing to them divine or devilish qualities.
Some religions imagined good or bad spirits living in those spheres, or even an ensemble of gods. Actually, however, those spheres are nothing but energies hovering above or below our human reality.
Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, so dear to Benedict XVI, named the Christosphere the ensemble of energies liberated by religions and imagined it hovering above earth. Fr. Karl Rahner, the mentor of Pope Benedict, considered that the ensemble of energies liberated from the earth is concentrated in the center of earth.
Hence, according to this progressivist perspective, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are just names given to those spheres of energy. They are not physical realities, but products of our minds as John Paul II says, the result of our attempt to describe something we do not fully understand.
Divinization of men
One word can be added to this overview to help understand Benedict XVI’s affirmation that Christ’s Resurrection is “an evolutionary leap,” which can be found in his book Jesus of Nazareth (vol. II, p. 244).
Progressivism thinks, on the one hand, that the various religious practices are the forms of human activity that liberate the most energy because they are interacting specifically with those spheres. Consequently, every religion is good, principally the Catholic Church, which is considered the most powerful of all religions contributing to this process.
On the other hand, religions reflect an outdated stage of evolution in which each of them imagines it is the only one that holds the truth. To enter the coming new stage in the evolutionary process, all religions need to give up their particular beliefs and merge into a common agreement. Then, all together they will give one another a great embrace of universal fraternity. At this point the human atmosphere of energies will be ripe for the new “evolutionary leap” wherein man will become “divine,” like Christ after His resurrection.
Progressivism believes that Christ was a charismatic man who made this leap ahead of time. He is an individual who reached the next stage and became “god,” just like there was a first orangutan who became a man early in the same evolutionary process. Others will follow Christ in this transformation and be as He became. This is the leap to enter the new age, which now we only confusedly glimpse and call the beatific vision, heaven, paradise, eternal happiness and other such things.
Here you have both the Catholic and the Progressivist concepts of God and their consequent concepts of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
We hope this background may help you to understand what has been said by the Conciliar Popes.
TIA correspondence desk
Posted March 17, 2011
Related Topics of Interest
Hell: A Demand of Divine Goodness
Heaven, A Matter of Interpretation
The Supernatural and the Preternatural
Why So Many People Go to Hell
JPII, Claudius & Prisca
Rahner: Revelation Is the World's Evolution
Rahner: Life after Death Reintegrates the Soul in the Cosmos
Teilhard: The Heart of Christ is the Heart of the Cosmos
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