Reading Rosita Boland’s article on childhood religious education made me wonder what the catechism looks like these days. I can remember well doing the catechism in school though I can’t remember much of the content. I decided to check it out.
Frankly skimming it was enough for me, as looking from the outside in it, it is completely loolally. However some interesting titbits jumped out at me.
According to the catechism on the Vatican’s website, Hell is a real place. I thought they’d made it all metaphorical but apparently not. God, it appears is indeed one sick vicious bastard:
1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."
The old Penny Catechism was more succinct:
125. Where will they go who die in mortal sin?
They who die in mortal sin will go to hell for all eternity.
134. Shall not the wicked also live for ever?
The wicked also shall live and be punished forever in the fire of hell.
I’ve no interest in trying to understand the minutiae of Catholic theology – it has as much relevance as all those backstory Middle Earth books, but I certainly come away from this excerpt below thinking that Jesus is the ultimate slum landlord. I mean, if he’s killed the Devil (eh? Has no one told the pope?) and taken over Hell, these Trinity chaps have got a nice little monopoly going on afterlife holiday destinations.
635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."
Dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.