Wednesday, April 8, 2020


(A snippet from Edward Fesser's blog)

"Here’s a narrative we’re all by now familiar with.  Call it Narrative A:

Those who initially downplayed the dangers of COVID-19 were guilty of wishful thinking, as are those who think the crisis can be resolved either easily or soon.  This is what the experts tell us, and we should listen to them.  Even though those most at risk of death from the novel coronavirus are the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions, this is a large group.  Moreover, many people who won’t die from the virus will still suffer greatly, and even those with mild symptoms or none at all can still infect others.  Draconian measures are called for, even at the risk of massive unemployment, the undoing of people’s retirement plans, and the depletion of their savings.  Better safe than sorry.  To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of “coronavirus denialism.”

This narrative is now widely accepted, and I have nothing to say here in criticism of it.  More to the present point, it seems to be widely accepted by Catholic bishops, who have been moved by it to suspend most public access to churches and to the sacraments.  I have nothing to say here in criticism of that either.

Here’s another narrative that is also familiar, but less widely accepted.  Call it Narrative B:

Those who suppose that few if any people will go to Hell are guilty of wishful thinking.  This is contrary to scripture and 2,000 years of teaching from the popes, the saints, and the Church’s greatest theologians.  They are the experts and we should listen to them.  Even if it turned out that a minority of the human race is damned, this could still be a large number.  Moreover, even those who will end up instead in Purgatory will still suffer greatly, and those who teach errors or live immoral lives out of invincible ignorance might lead others into damnation.  The call for conversion to the Catholic faith and repentance from sin must be urgently pursued, even at the risk of causing grave offense and inviting serious persecution.  To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of “damnation denialism.”

I am well aware that secular readers, universalists, and others will scoff at Narrative B.  But this post is not directed to them.  It is directed to those who claim to accept the teaching of the Catholic Church, such as the bishops.

The question for these Catholics is this: If Narrative A is compelling, how much more compelling should we find Narrative B?  After all, as Christ taught: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  Since COVID-19 attacks only the body but Hell entails the perpetual suffering of body and soul, shouldn’t damnation be an even more urgent concern than COVID-19?"