Review: The Devil’s Redemption

McClymond, Michael J. The Devil’s Redemption: A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

This is a very important book. In two large and carefully documented volumes Dr. McClymond, a professor of theology at St. Louis University, has traced the entire history of Christian universalism from its first appearance in the Gnostic heresies within 100 years of the birth of the Christian church up until the veritable deluge of universalistic theological and popular literature that is challenging the Christian churches today. He traces this development not only across the centuries but also across the broad spectrum of classic Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions, as well as more recent charismatic-Pentecostal expressions. In total he examines in some detail the thought of more than 150 thinkers.

He understands universalism to be that theory that holds that every human being will eventually be saved and that no human being (or in some variations, almost no human beings) will be in hell. Some universalistic theories also hold that even the devil and the demons will be eventually reconciled with God and be in heaven, hence the title of his book. His methodology is to begin by identifying the most important figures in each age and each tradition and then provide a somewhat detailed account of their views, including the various elements that influenced them, using both the primary sources and the best secondary analyses available. He then undertakes a comprehensive review of the varying interpretations of what these major figures actually taught. This in itself is a valuable exercise as it shows the high degree of ambiguity in many of their teachings and the sometimes divergent interpretations that have sometimes resulted in quite different ecclesial responses to their theologies. A prime example of this is illustrated in the chapter on Karl Barth, where there is an ongoing debate about whether his theology of “universal election” implies a necessary universal salvation of the entire human race or not. Barth himself is reported to have said in response to a question of whether he taught universalism: “I do not teach it, but I also do not not teach it.”

In the course of this monumental study Dr. McClymond shows the wide range of types of universalism that have appeared over the centuries. There have been those who have held to a theory of “ultra universalism” which holds that no matter what the state of a person’s soul is at the moment of death they go right to heaven with no need of any purification, because of the power of Christ’s sacrifice. There are many others who have held to a “post mortem” need for purification or expiation before being admitted to heaven, with everyone eventually admitted. One variation of this theory is that some people go to hell but hell isn’t forever, and eventually everyone gets out. As a Catholic it has been interesting to see how often something like the doctrine of purgatory is explored as a way of explaining how everyone is saved but some need post-mortem purification. There are others who hold to a theory of “annihilation” where “damned” souls simply cease to exist, there being no hell.

As a Catholic, writing this review for a Catholic journal, I was particularly interested in how Dr. McClymond would handle the question of universalism in the Catholic Church. Dr. McClymond is himself an Anglican who teaches on a Catholic theology faculty. In an email exchange with Dr. McClymond, he reminded me that John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton did some of their best theological writing when they were Anglicans! I have studied and written on this issue myself and I found his knowledge of universalistic currents of thought in the contemporary Catholic Church to be very complete and his judgements very sound.

In his history of universalism as it pertains to the Catholic Church he makes a point of saying that Origen wasn’t the first to introduce universalistic theories into the Church, but that this had happened already through the gnostic sects such as the Basilideans, Carpocratians, and Valentinians that appeared as early as 130 AD. It is worth nothing, though, that we already see, even before the appearance of gnostic sects, many references within the New Testament about a time coming when people depart from the truth and wander off into “myths” (2 Tm 4:4), as well as many warnings from Jesus himself and the apostles about the doctrinal confusion and false teachers and prophets that were actually already emerging or about to emerge in NT times.

Origen, of course, is a major figure in the development of universalistic currents of thought in all the Christian traditions, but of course also in the Catholic Church. Again, there are conflicting interpretations about whether Origen actually taught universalism or simply speculated on it as a possibility. However, Dr. McClymond is among those interpreters of Origen who point out that his “metaphysics” actually entails universal salvation because of his teaching of the pre-existence of souls before their appearance on earth, and shares a common pattern with gnostic theories.

His cosmology of the premundane fall of souls, their embodiment, and their final return to God replicated a common pattern in gnostic and especially Valentinian cosmologies. (4)1

One of Dr. McClymond’s most original contributions to the study of universalism in the Christian churches is his discovery that universalism often arises from, and is significantly impacted by, recurring impulses of the fallen human mind to come up with theories that take away our discomfort with the concept of eternal punishment, despite the explicit teaching of Jesus and the apostles to the contrary, and as officially taught by all the Christian traditions up until fairly recently. Not only is the influence of gnostic theories throughout the ages of great significance, but also the influence of subjective mystical experiences that often carry with them universalistic interpretations. And, shockingly enough, sometimes there is an open acknowledgement on the part of those who promulgate universalism that their theories have been confirmed by “spirits,” sometimes even in séances. He provides remarkable documentation about this gnostic/occultic influence on universalistic theories — not only in the Christian tradition, but in the Jewish and Islamic traditions — and elaborates on this in a series of important appendices to the main body of his work.

Without doubt, though, Origen’s speculations served as a rich source of universalistic speculation for centuries to come. This raises the important question as to what extent universalism was a teaching of some of the Church Fathers. Dr. McClymond draws on the most widely respected studies on the Patristic teaching on eschatology, and especially on Fr. Brian Daley’s The Hope of the Early Church, to answer this question. Based on a tabulation of data provided by Fr. Daley, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, McClymond concludes from his study of the first eight centuries that 68 of the authors clearly teach a two-fold outcome to human lives, heaven and hell; 7 authors are unclear; 2 teach something like eschatological pantheism; and 4 authors appear to be universalists in an Origenian sense. This is an important fact, as often the impression is given that a wider number of Fathers embraced universalism or that in some way the Orthodox Church does.

Dr. McClymond makes the further point that many of the Greek Fathers not only affirmed the reality of hell but also asserted that this was the destiny of the majority of the human race. He also makes clear that even though the Orthodox Church seems to be more tolerant of private theological opinions than the Catholic Church, it has never taught universalism in any of its official documents and in fact joined in condemning Origen and his non-orthodox theories in the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553. While there are various issues raised about what indeed was condemned in this Council, Origen was condemned by name. And whatever is resolved about the varying interpretations of this Council, for fourteen hundred years afterward, until the mid-twentieth century, the churches understood the condemnation to be aimed at Origen’s universalism.

Disruption in the Catholic Tradition

Which leads us to the mid-twentieth century in the Catholic Church. As McClymond sums up the Catholic situation until mid-twentieth century:

“The catholic tradition – from its postapostolic era, during the Origenist controversies, and guided by such thinkers as Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Bellarmine, and Newman — was consistent through the centuries in teaching a final twofold state of heaven and hell” (868). This teaching was clearly reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1030-1037). The Catechism further makes clear that Jesus didn’t descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy hell, but to free the just who had gone before him (CCC 633).

Cardinal Avery Dulles, in his extensive review of the attitude of the Catholic Church to universalism throughout the centuries, concluded that there was “a virtual consensus among the Fathers of the Church and the Catholic theologians of later ages to the effect that the majority of humankind go to eternal punishment in hell” (cited in McClymond, 869). Cardinal Dulles further commented that “about the middle of the twentieth century, there seems to be a break in the tradition.”

It is this break in the tradition that Dr. McClymond examines in some detail in a lengthy chapter devoted to the contemporary situation in the Catholic Church regarding universalism. He identifies Karl Rahner, whose “anonymous Christian” theories became popular in the 1970s, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose “hope for the salvation of all” became popular in the 1980s, as the two theologians most responsible for this rupture with the tradition.2

Of the two, Balthasar’s theories are currently the most influential and so I will restrict myself to summarizing how Dr. McClymond evaluates his influence on the doctrine of universalism. Balthasar’s name actually comes up rather frequently throughout the two volumes, as Dr. McClymond comments on how the various forms of universalism take shape over the centuries and how Balthasar’s approach contains elements of many of them.

The Influence of Balthasar

Central to Balthasar being able to propose his theory is “neutralizing” the many scriptural texts that clearly speak of a twofold outcome. He does this by proposing that there are actually two streams of Scripture, many indeed speaking of the twofold outcome, but some speaking of universal salvation. What he next proposes, though, is quite surprising. He claims that these strands of Scripture are contradictory and can’t be, and shouldn’t be, harmonized. This is, of course, in direct contradiction to how the Catholic Church views the scriptures (they don’t contradict each other and indeed need to be interpreted in light of each other) and how the entire tradition has interpreted them.

The Sacred Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) of Vatican II teaches quite clearly that the entire canon of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, is inspired and has a unity. And it makes the very strong statement about how we are to receive it.

Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures. (DV 11)

The Church has consistently harmonized what Balthasar claims are two irreconcilable streams of scripture and manifests that harmonization in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Yes. God desires that all men and women be saved and offers everyone the grace to be saved, but if this grace is rejected and there is a refusal to repent and believe persevered in to the end, they will be lost. The technical theological language for this is understanding that God’s antecedent will is indeed the salvation of all, but his consequent will is that all those who respond to his antecedent will by faith in Jesus and repentance will be saved, but those who don’t will be condemned. Balthasar’s facile rejection of the Catholic approach to Scripture and how the whole tradition has understood these complementary, not contradictory, verses is shocking.

Dr. McClymond provides an excellent summary of the various ways in which universalists attempt to deal with the scriptures, whether by attempting to identify a canon within the canon, or privileging one strand of scripture over another, or though allegorical and symbolic interpretations that are implausible (1047–54).

Ignoring Evangelization

Another troubling aspect of Balthasar’s teaching is that he claims that we should only meditate on hell as a theoretical possibility for ourselves and not think about our neighbor’s eternal destiny. His motivation is that we not smugly consider ourselves saved and our neighbor as possibly lost, but the result is that there is a total lack of a concern for evangelization in his well-known work on universalism Dare We Hope.

One of the striking features of Dare We Hope? is the complete absence of reference to mission, evangelism, or proclamation as basic functions of the church. . . . Balthasar’s theology is thus fundamentally unmissional. It centers on a contemplative practice of ‘seeing the form’ and on a decision to ‘hope for all,’ but without a distinctive focus on preaching, mission, or evangelism. It is no wonder, then, that contemporary Catholic leaders find it hard to link Balthasar’s theology to the ‘new evangelization.’ They do not share the same presuppositions. (930; see also 1011–12)

Dr. McClymond finally characterizes Balthasar’s “hopeful universalism” as “wishful thinking” (1012).

And while Balthasar claims he isn’t teaching universalism, he lets his sympathies be known in such an obvious way that there is no doubting that that is what he believes, even though he is not formally teaching it. For example, he summarizes his teaching by quoting a text from Edith Stein that she never published “which expresses most exactly the position that I have tried to develop.”

Temporal death comes for countless men without their ever having looked eternity in the eye and without salvation’s ever having become a problem for them: that, furthermore, many men occupy themselves with salvation for a lifetime without responding to grace — we still do not know whether the decisive hour might not come for all of these somewhere in the next world, and faith can tell us that this is the case.

And now, can we assume that there are souls that remain perpetually closed to such love? As a possibility in principle, this cannot be rejected. In reality, it can become infinitely improbable — precisely through what preparatory grace is capable of effecting in the soul.3

Strange Spiritual Influences

Even more troubling though than Balthasar’s approach to Scripture and Tradition is his openness to suspect spiritual experiences and private revelations that came to him through his very close collaborator, Adrienne von Speyr. Dr. McClymond quite convincingly establishes in his study of universalism through the centuries and in all the churches the frequent influence of the occult, of spiritism, of “esoteric “ knowledge, of secret societies, “white magic,” theosophy, alchemistry, astrology, of private revelation in generating and supporting the views of those who teach universalism, automatic writing, séances, astral projection, “spirit guides,” etc. The evidence is overwhelming and shocking and is extensively documented in this very important book (22–23, 96, 200–15, all of chapters 5, 8, etc.).

Unfortunately, the evidence for occultic influence on Balthasar’s theories is rather clear. Dr. McClymond, while doing a masterful job in tracing the philosophical and theological influences on Balthasar — the Church Fathers inclined to universalism, the similar influence of Karl Barth with which he had frequent conversations, the universalism of prominent Russian thinkers, German idealism, etc. — also documents the troubling “esoteric” influences on his “hopeful universalism,” including even the little known fact that Balthasar wrote an admiring afterward to Valentin Tomberg’s work of Christian esotericism, Meditations on the Tarot (931).

The relationship with Balthasar and Speyr was unusual. He moved in with her and her husband and had an intense spiritual relationship with her. He claimed grounding for his unusual doctrine of the Trinity that seems to imply conflict and darkness in the Trinity, and his unusual interpretation of Holy Saturday, on the revelations of Speyr. He repeatedly claimed that the two of them can’t be separated and they are one in their theology. He even, in an interview with Cardinal Scola towards the end of his life, claimed that the Church would have to revise her doctrines in the light of her beautiful theories, and wonder why it hadn’t known these things sooner. He actually wrote two books describing their relationship and the accounts he gives there of what transpired between them spiritually and theologically are quite troubling. Speyr claimed to be in constant communication with St. Ignatius and told Balthasar that St. Ignatius wanted him to leave the Jesuits, and he did. She sometimes spoke to him in a guttural voice that wasn’t hers, in extremely demeaning ways. His skepticism about anyone being in hell, even Judas, was based on his lifelong attraction in this direction and her specific revelations. He was thrilled that everything in his theory was coming together and being confirmed and deepened with her. Dr. McClymond points out that Balthasar was very open in acknowledging these significant influences.

I was tremendously and lastingly attracted by Barth’s doctrine of election, that brilliant overcoming of Calvin. It converged with Origen’s views and therefore with Adrienne’s Holy Saturday theology as well.4

There are also disturbing sexual innuendo in the images Speyr uses when talking about their relationship, even though no one has ever accused them of an illicit physical relationship. McClymond draws heavily upon Karen Kilby’s study on Balthasar’s relationship with von Speyr. Besides the excellent work of Kilby and McClymond, I’ve also published an article on their relationship and the need for discernment of the source of her spiritual experiences in the Angelicum journal, which I think contributes to this important issue.5


It’s time to bring an already long review to an end. I would like to do so by citing some of the general observations that Dr. McClymond has made as a result of his work and then conclude with some of mine, particularly as they pertain to the situation of the Catholic Church today. But first I’d like to address a question that probably many of you have. Do I really have time or interest or theological competence to read a two-volume work like this? Who really should read this?

Who Should Read this Book?

Well, first of all, every theological library should have these volumes. They are an indispensable entry in the literature on universalism, which is an extremely important theological topic for every Christian church. Also, every theologian interested in this issue should have them (Amazon always offers discounts!). But what about the theologically interested or literate lay person who is not a professional theologian? Yes, they should seriously consider getting these because Dr. McClymond actually offers two different ways of using the volumes. He suggests that those who want to get a good overview of his work and its main argument should read the introduction and then the summary and conclusions at the end of each chapter and then his overall conclusions in chapter 12. Those interested in particular thinkers or how particular churches approach this issue can read the chapters (and appendices) of most interest. Another option would be to read the beginning of each chapter which explores the most important thinker’s main thought but then to skip the varying interpretations of that thinker and of derivative thinkers, unless one was especially interested. The book is so interesting it’s hard to skip anything, but possible!

General Observations of Dr. McClymond

  1. One of the underlying motivations of universalism is a desire to accommodate to the culture, and the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.
  2. One of the underlying motivations for universalism is an arrogance that thinks that our understandings of justice, mercy, and love are superior to Scripture and Tradition. It is a theory that is attractive to our fallen nature. We can end up judging God. A remarkable example of it comes in the words of John Stuart Mill, a 19th-century British philosopher: “I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures” (84). This attitude permeates much of the rationale that universalists give for their turn to universalism.
  3. One of the underlying motivations for universalism is a “metaphysical revolt” against how things actually are, a revolt against nature and God.
  4. Much universalist “exegesis” of Scripture is an attempt to explain away its plain meaning.
  5. It’s remarkable that the “spirits” that are often invoked in universalist narratives seem to be in complete agreement that no one ends up in hell.
  6. To virtually impose grace on all whether they want it or not is to undermine the reality of grace and to diminish the dignity and seriousness of human life, and to do away with the possibility of real love and friendship between God and man.
  7. The adoption of universalism often results in the destruction of other revealed truths as well, such as the atonement, the nature of God, the nature of man, the identity of Christ, the significance of keeping the moral law, blurring the line between God and creation, between good and evil, etc.

Our Situation as Catholics Today: My Observations

  1. What a blessing to be a Catholic and have the wisdom and stability of Scripture, Tradition, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  2. Yet, the bark of Peter is being tossed in a storm and an uncertain sound is coming from the trumpet, from many theologians, some of the bishops, and even the pope. Dr. McClymond quotes the troubling comment of Pope Francis as one of his chapter headings: “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”6
  3. We need to remember what Vatican II teaches about the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
  4. We need to remember that the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches, in harmony with Scripture and Tradition, that there are two and only two ultimate outcomes, purgatory being a temporary state of purification and expiation.
  5. We need to remember that the Catholic Church has defined as certain doctrine, based on the Scriptures, that there are no “second chances” after death, that the state we die in is the state that determines our eternal destiny.
  6. Balthasar claims that the mystics support his “hopeful universalism.” They don’t. Catherine, Teresa, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Faustina, etc.
  7. When in doubt, go with Jesus, go with Mary. We’re fools not to.
  8. There are so many warnings in Scripture that amount to “don’t be deceived” (1 Cor 6:9–11; Gal 5:19–21; Eph 5:5–6; 2 Thes 2:9–12; Mt 7:13–23; Mt 24:22–28; etc.) and to not believe the “doctrine of demons” infiltrated into the Church by “plausible liars” (1 Tim 4:1–7; 2 Pet 3:3; Jud 18; CCC 672).
  9. Let’s hold fast to the truth revealed to us for our salvation as it comes to us in Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, and is summed up for us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let’s be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have within us, Christ in us, the hope of glory, and pray and sacrifice for the salvation of souls. Where there’s life, there’s hope. So let’s hope, and pray and witness for everyone alive today that they may believe and repent and be saved.

A Final Word

Thank you, Dr. McClymond, for the immense amount of work, time, prayer, and labor that went into producing these volumes. We are in your debt.

  1. When I quote from Dr. McClymond’s book I’ll put the page number in parenthesis after the quote.
  2. In full disclosure, Dr. McClymond, periodically cites my own book on the subject, Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and its Implications for the New Evangelization (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013). In this book I have two lengthy chapters on each of these theologians, and while acknowledging their many positive contributions, seriously fault them both for how they deal with Scripture and Tradition and the verification of their theories in face of the empirical realities apparent to all. Dr. McClymond and I are similarly critical but not in exactly the same way.
  3. See Dare We Hope, 218–21. Bishop Robert Barron recently posted his views on why he doesn’t teach universalism even though he thinks Balthasar provides the best approach to this question. He says he can’t go as far as Balthasar does in endorsing Edith Stein’s statement about the rejection of grace being infinitely improbable. But he again affirms the approach to Scripture and Tradition that Balthasar takes, namely, that the two supposedly contradictory streams can’t and shouldn’t be harmonized, so that therefore there is a well-grounded hope for the salvation of all.
  4. Balthasar, Our Task, 101, cited in McClymond, 867. See also McClymond, 20.
  5. Ralph Martin, “Balthasar and Speyr: First Steps in a Discernment of Spirits,” Angelicum 2 (2014), 273–301.
  6. Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, no. 297.
Dr. Ralph Martin, STD About Dr. Ralph Martin, STD

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization. Ralph also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world.

Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a peritus to the Synod on the New Evangelization in October of 2012.

Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints, and Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization. He and his wife Anne have six children, and seventeen grandchildren, and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Avatar Jim Kiesow says:

    Thank you, Dr. Martin, for one of the best book reviews I have ever read – thorough, thought provoking, relevant to today’s zeitgeist, and of wise counsel.

    Most souls are interested in the afterlife, and Catholic Church teaching has been clear – ultimately heaven or hell for each of us. With life after death outside of our current bodily time, it is impossible for us to fully understand now, so we must trust in what Jesus told us, and what his apostles taught us through His established Church.

    This topic reminds me of what Jesus said to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33 on the bodily resurrection of the dead (also Mk 12:18-27 ; Lk 20:27-38) “… You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels heaven … ” Lots of speculation on the afterlife (or not), but our speculation can be mistaken.

    Many inside and outside of the Catholic Church are pushing for new interpretations and understandings followed by “up-dated” proclamations of its teachings. Salvation for all is one of those areas (LGBTQ, abortion, etc. are others). After all, if God the Father loves us unconditionally, even more than a good mom or dad loves their own children, He would not “banish us” to eternal and excruciating punishment. God is Love; He is infinitely merciful and infinitely just, so punishment forever is out of the question goes some of the thinking. Who would belong to a Church that teaches such things, or love a God like that, they say ?

    And so we get statements like Pope Francis’: “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” Further, Pope Francis is also alleged to have explained that “there is no punishment, but the annihilation of that soul. All the others will participate in the beatitude of living in the presence of the Father. The souls that are annihilated will not take part in that banquet; with the death of the body their journey is finished.” ( )

    Most of us have dead loved ones, especially our loving parents, so if God “annihilates” a soul, won’t we loved ones still know that soul once existed ? And if that soul is in “hell”, won’t loved ones know they are in hell ? So would he annihilate a truth form our memory ?

    Is it possible for men like Pope Francis and von Balthasar to speculate on these things as possibilities, but then declare that despite their thoughts and questions on these matters, they nonetheless “assent” to the teachings of the Catholic Church on this subject ?

    • Interesting you bring PF into the equation. Think of his position on human justice – his categorical rejection of both the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole. For PF these are unmerciful and unjust sentences. But how can his view of the temporal realm be squared with a theology in which God sends even one person to hell forever, without the possibility of repentance? Such a God would be both unmerciful and unjust according to this logic. A cynic might say that abolition of the death penalty under any circumstances as well as life without parole, is a necessary precondition to implementing a formally universalist theology. I believe many of PF’s actions and statements can be understood by looking at them through this lens. Of course, the result would be a different faith than historic Christianity, which is the scary thing.

  2. Bishop Robert Barron really needs to read this book. I would enjoy his Word on Fire apostolate, except his Balthasarian “dare we hope” universalism just ruins it for me.

  3. Dr Martin, The “troubling” quote by Pope Francis is only troubling if someone does not read all of paragraph 297 (Amoris Laetitia) or they want to interpret it as troubling because they simply want to condemn others as only God can condemn and are quite happy to ignore the full context of the quote.

    [“No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” A. L. 297]

    The pope is talking about condemnation by human members of the Church not the final condemnation to Hell. He is talking about a pastoral approach to sinners which is made very clear in the fullness of paragraph 297 (see quote below). I suggest it would be appropriate to remove the suggestion that the quote from Pope Francis is ‘troubling’.

    [“Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion. Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest. As for the way of dealing with different “irregular” situations, the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support: “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them”, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.”] (A.L. 297)

  4. To me it is obvious the Church would be better off if von Balthasar and Karl Rahner had never existed. Theorizing about the possibility of universal salvation among Catholic theologians was made possible by the “reformulation of the doctrine of “no salvation outside the Church” at Vatican II. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke to this issue, how it represents a “profound evolution of dogma” which has caused a “deep double crisis” in the Church, in his 2016 interview with Fr. Jacques Servais:

    “There is no doubt that on this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma. While the fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could still be of the opinion that, essentially, the whole human race had become Catholic and that paganism existed now only on the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era radically changed perspectives. In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized and that even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence. If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.

    From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated.”