Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard"

I was recently contacted by Mr. Reid Turner, author of the book The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard, who graciously send me an advance copy of this excellent little work to review. Like Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford, Mr. Turner attempts to break fee of the standard eschatological tropes common in Catholic apocalyptic literature by restricting himself to a much narrower field of study. Rather than seeking to present the Church's whole teaching on the end times or exegete the Book of Revelation, he focuses in on a very specific study of the eschatological visions of St. Hildegard of Bingen.

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), blessed with visionary experiences since childhood, was encouraged by Pope Eugenius III to record them. After ten years she produced Scivias, Latin for "Know the Ways", which includes her famous vision of five beasts. The five beasts are symbolic animals that represent five historical periods of time that Hildegard said would precede the Antichrist. Each era experiences a unique spiritual crisis intended to inflict damage on the Church in preparation for the coming of the son of perdition. 

Mr. Turner argues convincingly that the symbolism described in the vision reflects today’s world, with the first of the five eras having begun in the 1870s. He identifies the loss of the Papal States in 1870 as the eschatological key that begins the clock that ticks down to the end. Mr. Turner presents each of Hildegard's beasts and correlates them with the spiritual crises and mores of particular historical epochs, coming to the conclusion that we are currently in the middle of the fourth of five beasts. Hildegard's description of the fifth beast thus serves as a guide for what to expect in the decades ahead.

The book is very cautious; when it makes connections and inferences, it does so in a very qualified manner, respecting the limits posed by the nature of eschatological speculation. That being said, the inferences it does make are very strong and convincing. I have never investigated the beasts of Hildegard before reading Mr. Turner's book, but I found his historical interpretation of the beasts to be both historically and exegetically sound - in some cases, it was quite extraordinary how the visions of Hildegard lined up with Mr. Turner's proposed chronology.

Any student of Catholic eschatology, especially that branch which studies the private revelations of the saints, will want to check our Mr. Turner's book. It is brief - 91 pages. I read it in a single weekend. Reid Turner is no amateur, either; he has a BA in Biblical Studies from Bethel University in St. Paul and pursued graudate studies in the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, where he converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church in 1987.

I highly recommend this little book to your collection of eschatological works. And the price is right, too; at only $11.05, who can complain? You can obtain the book from Amazon

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Great Moments in Interreligious Dialogue: St. Fernando III

July 25th is the feast of Santiago Matamoros, "St. James the Moor-Slayer", the patron saint of Spain. In honor of St. James - and calling to mind a former day and time when men of God had not yet started down the desolate path of "dialogue" with Islam - we bring you this marvelous little passage from the life of St. Fernando III.

Fernando III (r. 1217-1252), King of Castile and later of Leon and Galicia, won back more territory from the Moors than any other Spanish monarch of the Reconquista. In the passage quoted below, St. Fernando is speaking to his mother, Queen Berenguera, about his desire to make war on the Moors. This decision, which St. Fernando formulated around Pentecost, 1224, Fernando said was "revealed by almighty God." This inspiration would lead to the campaign that would almost entirely conquer Andalusia from the Moors. St. Fernando told his mother:

"Most beloved mother and sweet lady: Of what benefit to me is the kingdom of Castile, which, though due to you by right, your generosity abdicated and granted to me; of what benefit to me is the most noble consort [Princess Beatrice of Swabia] brought from distant lands through your solicitude and labor and joined to me in marriage with indescribable honor; of what benefit to me is it that you anticipate my desires with maternal sweetness, and before I have fully conceived them, you bring them to most brilliant effect: if I am dulled by laziness, if the flower of my youth is fading away without fruit, if the light of royal glory, which already had begun to shine like certain rays, is being extinguished and annihilated? Behold, the time is revealed by almighty God, in which, unless I want to pretend otherwise like a weak and deficient man, I am able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom kings reign, against the enemies of the Christian faith, to the honor and glory of His name. The door is open indeed and the way is clear. Peace has been restored to us in our kingdom; discord and deadly enmities exist among the Moors; factions and quarrels have broken out anew. Christ, God and Man, is on our side; on that of the Moors , the infidel and damned apostate Muhammad. What more is there to say? Most kind mother, from whom, after God, I hold whatever I have, I beg that it may please you that I wage war against the Moors" [1].

A great moment in interreligious dialogue indeed! St. Fernando was under no illusion of how to deal with the threat of Islam. And he had greater success against the Moors than any modern democratic nation-builder. Were another great leader to arise who, like St. Fernando, was zealous for the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ, who knows what future victories God might grant?

For more on St. Fernando III, we recommend St. Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ by James Fitzhenry, available for purchase here.

Also related: Our very non-PC Santiago Matamoros T-Shirt, available in the Cruachan Hill webstore.

Santiago Matamoros, ora pro nobis!
Sancte Fernando, ora pro nobis!

[1] Joseph F. O'Callaghan, The Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Castile (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Tempe, AZ, 2002), pg. 88

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adam Pontaby, Patron Saint of Catholic Traditionalism

Remember the classic film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? I think the oldest of the Pontaby brothers, Adam, ought to be the patron saint of Catholic Traditionalism today.

This classic barn raising scene from the movie reminds me a lot of our current situation. Adam (in the green shirt) represents the spirit of Catholic Tradition. His brothers, in the other colored shirts, represent the contemporary Church hierarchy who are just trying their darndest to get along. The black and white gang represent the atheists, progressives, and secularists of the world. The barn that the brothers and the other gang are raising represent the edifice of the modern secular humanist establishment.

The Church, represented by the brothers, has at first bought into the lie that they must "dialogue" and "get along" with the world because they "don't want no trouble," but Adam calls them to their senses and the brothers wake up and respond appropriately. The key dialogue to watch for is at the 2:00 mark. Remember, Adam is Catholic Tradition.

"They're out to murder you! And what do you do? Apologize for livin'!"

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Not to abolish, but to fulfill"

There are few Scripture passages that elicit as much confusion as our Lord's words in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew concerning the Law and its fulfillment by Christ. Let us review our Lord's teaching, as found in the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament:

"Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-18).

Other translations will use the word "abolish" in place of destroy, but the meaning remains the same. Thus our Lord Jesus seemingly teaches that He has not overturned the Law of Moses. In fact, He seems to say that the Law shall remain in force "until heaven and earth pass away." At face value, this would suggest that the Law of Moses was permanently binding in all its rigor. Our Lord makes it explicitly clear that "not one jot or one tittle" shall pass away from the Law, "till all be fulfilled."

Confusion arises because our Lord's words seem to conflict with the constant teaching of the New Testament, which is emphatic that Christians are not under the Law of Moses and that the Law of Moses has in fact been superseded by the Gospel. For example:

" are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).
"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
"Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian" (Gal. 3:23-25).
"In speaking of a new covenant, he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear" (Heb. 8:13).

These teachings of St. Paul are fairly straightforward; the text of Hebrews 8:13, which says that the Old Covenant is "obsolete" and will "soon disappear" should be especially bookmarked by those who errantly assert that there is a permanent validity to the Old Covenant. Of course, this passage is not cited at all in the 2002 USCCB document "Reflections on Covenant and Mission."

Let us remind our readers of what exactly the Law of Moses consists of. Obviously, the Law refers to the series of commands and prohibitions given by God in the Old Testament that was to guide the life of the ancient Israelites, specifically those dictates found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Some of these laws are ceremonial, like proscriptions for certain Feast days. Some are dietary; some concern various liturgical rituals, others concern purity. Still others dictate norms for civil society and have the character of civil law. All of these aspects of the Law center around core which is moral - the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. The moral law gives meaning to the rest of the ceremonial laws. Some of the Law was merely provisional (the dietary law, rules for purity, etc) but the moral core of the Law abides forever because it reflects the natural law. This is a source of confusion for people; it means certain aspects of the Law of Moses are superseded by the New Testament but others are not.

This comes into play when comparing our Lord's statement that He did not come to abolish the Law to St. Paul's teaching that the Law is not obligatory. How can these passages be reconciled?

The most common approach to this is for people to simply play one passage off the others. For example, so-called "Messianic Christians" and "Messianic Jews" will tend to emphasize our Lord's words in Matthew while shrugging off St. Paul's teaching, thus asserting that the Law (or certain provisions of it) is still binding on Christians and offering various explanations to wiggle out of St. Paul's teachings. On the other hand, many Catholics will stand firm on St. Paul's teaching while scratching their head's as Jesus' words.

The answer is fairly simple, and hinges upon what it means to "fulfill" something.

Jesus notes that He did not come to earth to abolish the Law. Rather, the Law will be kept to its last jot and tittle "till all be fulfilled." This clause is critical.

Jesus says He has not come to "destroy" the Law; nothing will pass from the Law until it is "fulfilled." The implication, then, is that the "fulfillment" of the Law will bring about its "passing away." 

What we are looking at is a situation in which a single end can be brought about in two different ways. The end result is the "passing away" of the Law, there are two ways this can be brought about - "destroying" it, and "fulfilling" it. This is important to understand; our Lord does not teach that the Law will not pass away, only that it will not pass away by being destroyed. Those who misinterpret this passage typically miss this point.

Let us put forward an example to help exemplify this. The Law of Moses consists in a series of obligations binding upon its adherents. It is like a debt. To use this metaphor, suppose we incur a debt from the bank. The debt has certainly obligations, payment schedules, etc.

Now, how can I make my debt payments go away? There are two ways to get out of paying. First, I can simply repudiate the debt. I can just stop paying and default. Maybe I declare bankruptcy and have the court discharge the debt in some settlement. This would be sloppy, yes, and have other consequences, but I would make my monthly payments go away. This could be called getting out of the payments by destroying the relationship with the bank, the terms of the loan, etc.

Of course, there is another way to get out of my debt payments. I can make every debt payment down to the last penny and fulfill all the obligations of my loan to the letter. When the terms of the loan are fulfilled, the debt payments will go away. This could be seen as getting out of the payments by fulfilling the obligations of the loan down to the last jot and tittle.

Hopefully you can see the distinction and the solution to this problem. The Law of Moses had certain obligations: sacrifices, rituals, dietary code, festivals, etc. It also contained within it, because of its divine origin, various prophecies and fore-shadowing (such as Deut. 18:15, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; him you shall obey").

When Jesus came, the Pharisees saw many of His actions and words as in contradiction to that Law. They accused Him of trying to overthrow the Law of Moses. Of course, they did not understand the provisional nature of the Law; that it was, as St. Paul says, meant as a "custodian" until the age of grace. Our Lord emphasizes that He has not come to overthrow or destroy the Law. His actions are actually in continuity with the Law, insofar as the Law itself was meant to be fulfilled by the Messiah. Hence, when He reaches out and touches the leper to heal Him, in a certain sense, He seems to break the Law by touching an unclean man (cf. Matt. 8:3, Lev. 13:45-46). One who touches a leper contracts his uncleanliness. But in another sense, since Jesus is divine, He cannot become "unclean." The situation the Law was meant to prohibit (contracting uncleanliness) does not apply to Jesus because in His divinity He is the giver of the Law. He does not become unclean. Rather, He transmits His cleanliness to the leper, thus healing Him. Similarly, He cannot break the Law of the Sabbath because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28).Jesus does not "break" the Law; He is the incarnation of the Law. He fulfills it, exemplifies it, perfects it.

Jesus did not come to destroy the Law. He came to fulfill its precepts, obligations and prophecies to the last letter. He fulfills the function of all the sacrifices, He lives a perfect life and keeps the essence of its commandments flawlessly, and brings to fulfillment all its prophecies - the greatest being His atoning death on the cross, which ushers in the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 31 and brings the Old Law to its natural conclusion.

Yes, the Old Law is obsolete and has passed away. No, our Lord did not "destroy" it or "abolish" it; rather, like so much else of the Old Testament, He took it up, transfigured it, ennobled it, and fulfilled it.

Related: The Transitory Nature of the Mosaic Law

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Homosexualtiy and Tactical Accommodation

Since the infamous gay marriage ruling of June 26th, 2015, I have noticed a very troubling trend in the Catholic world. I'm not sure what to call it exactly, but I think I will say it is a sort of "tactical accommodation." What is this tactical accommodation? It is a degree of measured accommodation to homosexuality that, while stopping short of actually affirming it, allows a certain amount of legitimacy of some of the points of the homo-fascist crowd, thus giving the appearance of compromise to one side while maintaining fidelity to Catholic teaching on the other. I believe the purpose of this accommodation is to save some face with the other side.

In practice, this looks something like, "I believe in traditional marriage, but I also believe that conservative Catholics have generally failed at loving homosexuals adequately." 

Or perhaps, "I know we should not encourage people to define themselves by their sins, but Christians should not be so dismissive of the concept of homosexual identity."

Or another favorite, "The Church's teaching has not changed; but at the same time, I think the Church needs to more fully utilize the unique gifts and that homosexuals can bring."

And so on.

It's as if the Supreme Court ruling is being used as an occasion for self-reflection; not a reflection on the corrupt morals of the world or the need for a stronger defense of Church teaching, mind you, but an occasion to reflect on how we can be more accommodating to homosexuality.  

Even so, the message is clear: The Church is the problem. It is Catholics who have been intolerant. Homosexuals are the victims who have not been sufficiently appreciated. It is the faithful who need to change their approach to homosexuality, not homosexuals who need to conform their lives to the truth.

My friends, while this might make some of us feel good and believe we look more respectable in the "dialogue" with the world, it all mere nonsense. 

This sort of waffling about the evils of the age is how the Church shifted massively to the left after Vatican II: Catholics ceded ground to the progressives, such that what was once merely Catholicism was redefined as "integralism." This horrid lie has Catholics believing that our perennial Tradition is "radical Traditionalism" while what goes on at your typical Catholic parish is "Catholicism."

Similarly, the Church's traditional, uncompromising approach to homosexuality will increasingly be seen as "rigid" and "unmerciful" as Catholics, pressured by society, cede ground to the homo-fascists by making the sorts of wrist-wringing, self-condemnatory statements mentioned above. Traditional Catholic disgust at such acts - which are sins crying to heaven for vengeance - will be seen as an "extreme" position, which will be contrasted to the other "extreme" of homosexual acceptance. The new middle, the new orthodoxy, will be a kind of Kasperian dichotomy that still affirms the inadmissibility of homosexual relations while steadfastly refusing to say anything even remotely "negative" about them. And this new center will be put forward as "the Church's teaching."

Black is white. White is black.

But what of the objections themselves? Have conservative Catholics been "unloving"? Do we need to make room for a homosexual "identity"? Do homosexual Catholics, by virtue of their homosexuality, have some special gifts or insights for the Church? Well, I of course deny all three, but I am not arguing these points here, merely noting that this sort of waffling compromise is being floated and seems especially prevalent among the "new evangelization" crowd.

To see how far we have fallen in our kiddie-gloves approach to this topic, look at the language of St. John Chrysostom, the great preacher and Bishop of Constantinople:

“All passions are dishonorable, for the soul is even more prejudiced and degraded by sin than is the body by disease; but the worst of all passions is lust between men…. The sins against nature are more difficult and less rewarding, since true pleasure is only the one according to nature. But when God abandons a man, everything is turned upside down! Therefore, not only are their passions [of the homosexuals] satanic, but their lives are diabolic…So I say to you that these are even worse than murderers, and that it would be better to die than to live in such dishonor. A murderer only separates the soul from the body, whereas these destroy the soul inside the body….. There is nothing, absolutely nothing more mad or damaging than this perversity.” (St. John Chrysostom, In Epistulam ad Romanos IV)

Was St. John Chrysostom insufficiently loving of homosexuals? Did he not adequately grasp the gifts they had to offer?

This is how Catholicism has always approached homosexuality. The leaders of today's Church need to take their cue from saints like Chrysostom and others who were unflinching in their attitude towards this evil. Bishops, priests, man up! Sound off like you've got a pair! We need clarity and power in the Holy Spirit, not tactical accommodation.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Some Vacation Reflections and Ranting

Well, it feels good to be back! For the past five days I have been away on vacation to my favorite destination - Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which is one of this country's hidden gems. My family and I were staying in a gorgeous little cabin on Lake Huron on one of the Upper Peninsula's many little islands. This place was so far out that standing on the ledge of the island's rocky escarpment on the east side we could see the Canadian mainland directly.

While I was away, I had time to reflect on several things.

1. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is sparsely populated, only 19 persons per square mile. This is even more so if one looks at the various islands in the Great Lakes, such as the one we were staying on. Because of this - and because of its character as a seasonal tourist destination with a migratory population - it seems that the parishes of the Upper Peninsula are not well attended to by the Ordinary. This is reflected in the bizarre priests I have encountered in the Upper Peninsula over the years. You get a lot of retired priests, a fair share of wacko priests, and priests with a lot of weird eccentricities. I guess it has a kind of internal logic. In a tourist town, there is not likely to be a very stable parish congregation. Probably not a lot of baptisms, weddings, or confessions. It makes sense that a bishop would stick these sorts of areas with priests that are - ahem - on the less well rounded side? This has always been my experience in "touristy" areas. I'd be interesting to see if anyone has any insight on this from other touristy areas around the country, especially those more remote places that do not have much of a population other than seasonal waves of tourists. It seems like these "touristy" seasonal areas are the bishops' dumping grounds for odd-ball priests.

This situation is exacerbated, of course, by declining vocations and parish clusters. Going to Mass on Sunday was a huge debacle. We were fortunate in that the island we were on actually had a Catholic mission parish on it. I went by and picked up a bulletin before Sunday so I could check out the Mass times. Masses at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday. Wow! Impressive for an island on the Upper Peninsula.

But alas, I was naive. This parish mission was actually part of a huge cluster of four parishes (er, a "faith community" as they called it) that stretched across almost fifty miles of remote forest and tiny villages and islands. The Mass times on the bulletin were for the cluster collectively; this Mass at one parish, that Mass at another, etc. Because I did not know this and could not decode the little abbreviations ("8:30 AM Mass Sunday OLS", where OLS stands for "Our Lady of the Snows", for example), I misunderstood where and when the Masses were. I showed up at the parish mission at 8:30 AM with my family all spiffed up for Mass to find the Church dark and parking lot empty.

Well, we panic, look over the bulletin again, and after a few minutes figure out the cluster, use the tiny key at the bottom of the page to decode the abbreviations. Not user friendly. Seriously, look at this bulletin. Note the Mass times at the upper right and then the tiny, dinky, insignificant little key at the bottom to help you decode the abbreviations (click on the image to see it bigger):

Well, after decoding the bulletin, we find that the 8:30 Mass was for another parish and the only other Mass in the region is at 11:00 AM over forty miles away. Not a big deal; that's over two hours. But remember, we are on an island! We have to use a ferry to get off. We drive like mad to the ferry, but when we get there, there is an insane line of cars stretching from the ferry down the road then around the bend and a quarter mile down another road! You see, this Sunday was the day after the 4th of July, and all the tourists were flocking to get off the island and get back home.As the ferry leaves only once per hour, failing to get on the first ferry means a delay of an hour at least. And we estimated there were two or three ferry's worth of cars in front of us. 

Some quick math and we figured we'd never get on the ferry on time - heck, even after waiting for an hour and a half to two hours to get on the fairy, it still takes the ferry 25 minutes to cross the straits, and then we still needed to drive for 30 miles to reach the parish. Not possible in time.

Well, long and short of it is for the first time in 15 years, I missed Sunday Mass. Dejected, we drove back to the empty parish, which surprisingly was unlocked. We went in and sat before the tabernacle and prayed the Rosary, read the readings, and did a little holy half hour. As I sat there moping and prayerful in the dark, empty church, I thought to myself, "This is what it will be like in many more places in the future; people wanting to get to Mass but unable to, praying alone in empty churches."

3. Later that day, the sun was shining and it was fairly warm, so we packed up and drove down an old two-track road through several miles of woods to reach an isolated cove. It was gorgeous. A rock strewn shore, pines, juniper, and birch crowding up to the shoreline shielding it from view from the land - and the crystal clear water of northern Lake Huron, with visibility of fifteen or twenty feet down. Pristine, fresh, vivifying...soft, sandy bottom perfect for swimming. Ah, so gorgeous. Here is a picture, which still fails to capture the beauty of the spot.

But as we walked up to the cove, I noticed little pieces of shimmering gold scattered across the floor of the lake near the shore. As I moved in closer, I saw they were the foil and rubbish left behind by detonated fireworks. It being the day after the 4th of July, some folks had apparently been out at the cove the night before blasting fireworks and letting the rubbish fall into the lake. I was so disappointed. My daughter was sad and confused; "Why would anyone do this?" she asked. I had no answer except to say that the idiots who did it had a severe case of rectal-cranial inversion. My son and I spent twenty minutes carefully picking them all out of the crystal waters of the lake and properly disposing of them.

You know, I'm not convinced the science behind "climate change" is entirely sound. I am not a climate change alarmist by any stretch. That's not to say I have a difficulty or problem accepting the concept of climate change as a scientific hypothesis; I'm just not sure the science backs up climate change, much less warrants broad government controls on emissions, etc. But that being said, Pope Francis is correct when he says in Laudato Si that a profound change in the way we approach the environment is necessary. I am shocked that in this day, with so much sensitivity to environmental issues, with knowledge that our synthetic plastics can take 10,000 years to break down, with all the knowledge we have about the way what we do can affect our ecosystem - well, I am shocked that there are still people out there who could somehow litter this pristine cove with firework rubbish and apparently think nothing of it.

So, I applaud much (I stress much, as in, not all) of what Francis wrote in Laudato Si. When I see crap like what I saw in that cove, I totally agree there is should be a change the way we think about the environment. But the problem with the approach taken by Laudato Si is that all environmental problems are kind of lumped together indiscriminately. Near where I live, every highway median, every grassy right of way, every roadside is littered with filth. Sometimes when I see it, I can't figure out how so many people can so carelessly toss their rubbish around. It's a real problem.. But that's a different problem than "climate change." Which is in turn a different problem than corrupt Third World tin-pot dictatorships embezzling funds meant for disaster relief, and so on. All of these problems have different causes and require different approaches. But Laudato Si merely lumps them all together and creates a false antithesis between those accept the environmentalist disaster narrative in totu and those who are "deniers."

I love nature. I was raised in the country. My heart broke when I came all the way to this secluded cove and saw so much rubbish in the water. I try to instill in my children a real attitude of stewardship and responsibility for the creation. If I could, the baser part of me would love to flog the people who stupidly (and probably drunkenly) littered this pristine water with their filth. But I wish we could get off the "environmentalist liberal" vs. "denier" paradigm. Like most either-or paradigms, it is not that simple.

Well, that's enough for now I suppose. Speaking of Laudato Si, I am still plodding away. I think I'm at paragraph 189. But I have not forgotten!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Hagiography and a Populated Hell

Some time ago, we did a series on the reality of souls going to hell, not only in potentiality but actuality. We discussed this topic using not only the sources of Scripture and Tradition, but also pietistical, artistic, and literary sources to demonstrate that a populated hell has always been part of the Catholic sensus fidelium (see "Fr. Barron and Mark Shea and Balthasar Are Wrong", USC, Nov. 1, 2013, and subsequent articles in the series).

One aspect of this question we did not explore was the testimony of the saints. The lives of the saints throughout the centuries furnish us with innumerable examples - through private revelation and prophecy - of not only the possibility of a person going to hell, but the actual damnation of particular persons. St. Teresa of Avila famously noted that she saw souls - especially Lutherans - falling into hell like snowflakes. St. John Bosco had similar visions; Padre Pio had revelations of particular unrepentant individuals in hell. And so on and son on.

Those who support the empty hell theory of Balthasar must necessarily poo-poo such testimony. After all, they argue, such private revelations and accounts from hagiographical literature do not constitute the official teaching of the Church; no Catholic is bound to believe any particular miracle story. These tales are evidence of a particular piety, but they are not magisterial teaching. Therefore a Catholic is free to simply ignore them.

Of course, it is true that we need not believe any particular story. But when we weigh the sheer volume of references to individuals in hell we find in Catholic literature and hagiography, the amount of testimony the Balthasarians must cumulatively discard is astonishing.

For an example, take the Life of St. Columba, written by St. Adamnam (d. 704). In the Life of St. Columba alone, we have the following references to Columba's miraculous knowledge of the eternal damnation of particular individuals.

"He often saw, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, the souls of some just men carried by angels to the highest heavens. And the reprobates too he very frequently beheld carried to hell by demons" (Vita St. Columba, Book I, Cap. 1).

"One day again, as the saint was sitting in his little hut, he said, in prophecy to the same Colca, then reading by his side, "Just now demons are dragging with them down to hell one of the chiefs of thy district who is a niggardly person." When Colca heard this, he marked the time accurately in a tablet, and, coming home within a few months, learned on inquiry from the inhabitants of the place, that Gallan, son of Fachtna, died at the very moment that the saint said to him the man was being carried off by demons" (Vita St. Columba, Book I, Cap. 29).

"At another time also, the holy man specially recommended a certain exile, of noble race among the Picts, named Tarain, to the care of one Feradach, a rich man, who lived in the Ilean island (Isla), that he might be received in his retinue for some months as one of his friends. After he had accepted the person thus highly recommended at the hand of the holy man, he in a few days acted treacherously, and cruelly ordered him to be put to death. When the news of this horrid crime was carried by travelers to the saint, he replied by the following prediction: "That unhappy wretch hath not lied unto me, but unto God, and his name shall be blotted out of the book of life. We are speaking these words now in the middle of summer, but in autumn, before he shall eat of swine's flesh that hath been fattened on the fruits of the trees, he shall be seized by a sudden death, and carried off to the infernal regions." When the miserable man was told this prophecy of the saint, he scorned and laughed at him; and when some days of the autumn months had passed, he ordered a sow that had been fattened on the kernels of nuts to be killed, none of his other swine having yet been slaughtered: he ordered also, that its entrails should be immediately taken out and a piece quickly roasted for him on the spit, so that by hurrying and eating of it thus early, he might falsify the prediction of the blessed man. As soon as it was roasted he asked for a very small morsel to taste it, but before the hand which he stretched out to take it had reached his mouth he expired, and fell down on his back a corpse. And all who saw or heard it were greatly astonished and terrified; and they honoured and glorified Christ in his holy prophet (Vita St. Columba, Book II, Cap. 24)

"When the holy man, while yet a youth in deacon's orders, was living in the region of Leinster, learning the divine wisdom, it happened one day that an unfeeling and pitiless oppressor of the innocent was pursuing a young girl who fled before him on a level plain. As she chanced to observe the aged Gemman, master of the foresaid young deacon, reading on the plain, she ran straight to him as fast as she could. Being alarmed at such an unexpected occurrence, he called on Columba, who was reading at some distance, that both together, to the best of their ability, might defend the girl from her pursuer; but he immediately came up, and without any regard to their presence, stabbed the girl with his lance under their very cloaks, and leaving her lying dead at their feet turned to go away back. Then the old man, in great affliction, turning to Columba, said: "How long, holy youth Columba, shall God, the just Judge, allow this horrid crime and this insult to us to go unpunished?" Then the saint at once pronounced this sentence on the perpetrator of the deed: "At the very instant the soul of this girl whom he hath murdered ascendeth into heaven, shall the soul of the murderer go down into hell." And scarcely had he spoken the words when the murderer of the innocent, like Ananias before Peter, fell down dead on the spot before the eyes of the holy youth. The news of this sudden and terrible vengeance was soon spread abroad throughout many districts of Scotia (Ireland), and with it the wonderful fame of the holy deacon" (Vita St. Columba, Book II, Cap. 26).

And these references come from a single work. The theme of the sinner being dragged to hell was a very common one in medieval Christian hagiography; so common it is featured in almost every piece of thaumaturgical literature that has come down to us.

The point is, if we are to reject these sorts of testimonies based on the fact that we need not believe any particular private revelation, we must indeed reject a vast bulk of the Christian hagiographical tradition, from St. Gregory the Great's Dialogues to Adamnan's Life of St. Columba to the visions of Hildegard and everything in between and right on up to the writings of Teresa of Avila and John Bosco. You cannot pick out "condemned sinner" narratives out of Christian hagiography without eviscerating Christian hagiography.

And if a theological school is willing to totally sacrifice our Christian hagiographical patrimony in the interests of furthering some novelty, some pet theory, then that school of theology is something the Church can do without.