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The Near-Death (Near-Hell) Experience

Sometimes the low-key National Catholic Register can deliver quite a jolt. In 1999 the front page of its August 8-14 issue carried the fiery headline “WORLD EXCOMMUNICATED.”

Gosh, the whole world? In theory we like the idea of excommunication, but our first reaction was that this could be taking things a bit too far.

Well, the next issue of the Register doused the headline. A “Correction” notice stated that because of a “production glitch,” the headline was erroneous. Yes, okay, those things happen.

This year, the lead story on the front page of the January 7-13 Register carried an equally arresting headline: “New Research Confirms Life After Death.” Our first reaction was that this could portend the instant conversion of the whole world. The story, written by Register correspondent Paul Burnell, tells about a “scientific investigation” into the (presumably) bona fide “near-death experiences” of four people. Yes, only four. Yes, the headline is just a wee bit exaggerated. Nonetheless, the story proved to be captivating, not because of the report on the research, but because of an interview Burnell conducted with a priest in Kansas, Fr. Steven Scheier (not connected with the “scientific investigation”).

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