What Burns Your Toast?

July-August 2002

James K. Fitzpatrick had a column in The Wanderer (Nov. 1, 2001) in which he discussed the dispute over universal salvation between your Editor and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Fitzpatrick asked: “Who is right?” He answered: “I think I’ll pass.”

But Fitzpatrick — bless his soul — has seen the light. In his column in the April 4 Wanderer, he returns to the dispute. Says Fitzpatrick: “There are times when I feel he [Neuhaus] may be right. Now is not one of them, however.” The “now” refers to his discussion of priestly homosexuality and pedophilia, wherein he asks himself how priests, of all people, could commit such heinous acts. He explores some possible answers, but leans toward one in particular, namely, they had no fear of going to Hell: “These pedophile priests are men who have dismissed the notion of a Hell…. The fear of God’s wrath is missing from their consciences…. It is far easier to give in to a temptation when you are sure that there is no penalty that you will pay, in this life or the next….” Fitzpatrick admits he doesn’t know for sure that this is the explanation, but this is what he’s inclined to think. Fitzpatrick, you see, has been contemplating what happens “when men and women no longer worry about meeting their Maker,” and he’s aghast.

The Church teaches that there are Sins Crying Out to Heaven for Vengeance. We’ve seen two such lists. One lists four sins, another lists five, but sodomy is on both lists. If you thought about it, you could probably add other sins to those lists. And if you contemplate what’s on your own list, your thoughts of course turn to Hell, and you probably think to yourself, “Have the people who commit these sins no shame, no conscience, no fear of God’s justice, no concern for their immortal souls?” Those are Fitzpatrick’s thoughts, and so — suddenly — the realization hits him that the notion of universal salvation is a license to sin in the grossest ways, and with impunity.

Truly, Fitzpatrick has been thinking deeply about these things, and we’re glad. In the same Wanderer (April 4), Fitzpatrick has another column, this one about the responsibility Catholic parents have, as the Church teaches, to be their children’s “first teachers.” The column is titled “Their Souls Are the Stakes,” and he writes: “It is our responsibility to ensure that our children are introduced to the Catholic faith and the codes of moral behavior taught by the Church. Their souls are the stakes.” Yes, we must teach our children about Christ, and that actions have consequences, even eternal consequences. As Catholic parents, the most important thing we could want for our children is to be able to see them again in Heaven. We know very well that we would be derelict in our duty were we to tell our children that everybody goes to Heaven, or even that we “hope” that everybody goes to Heaven, for that would minimize the seriousness of unrepented mortal sin, would mock the righteousness of God, and would be sending the wrong message.

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New Oxford Notes: July-August 2002

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