With all of the talk of mercy this past year, people would be tempted to think that we are all assured of Heaven; that all that is left to do for us in the Catholic religion is to help make life on earth better. But is this true? Does mercy mean that as long as we are generally "nice" people who believe in social justice causes we are, more or less, assured Heaven? Would it not be unjust for God to send anyone to Hell? After all, sending souls to Hell is not at all in line with the new mercy.
Indeed with the advent of Amoris Laetitia, one wonders if anyone is culpable for any sin they commit. For if one can receive Holy Communion regardless of the objectively sinful state of their life, based on an imperfect purpose of amendment, who can be damned?
Thankfully for us, the Reverend John Evangelist Zollner has the answer to these questions. With stunning precision only a priest of the past could provide, Fr. Zollner exposes with laser like insight, the false mercy preached by many Catholic prelates and priests today.
Without further ado, I give you Fr. John Zollner, writing in 1884, from Volume One of a series called "The Pulpit Orator."
1. You may hear careless Christians say: “The last judgment will not be half so severe as it is represented to be, for God is good and will not demand so rigorous an account.” Doubtless, for many, it would be well if it were so, and for their sakes it is a pity that their soft doctrine is flatly contradicted by Holy Writ and tradition. What will God do with you, when you stand before his tribunal? Will he, perhaps, say: Behold, you are yet a sinner, and not fit for heaven, first go, confess your sins, and be absolved, then I shall judge you. Alas! there shall be no confessional at the last judgment; God will judge you as you are when you arrive there; whether you be good or bad, he will render to you according to your works. — Rom. 2: 6. Tell me: Can God reward the wicked as he does the good? If he can, he is neither holy nor just; not holy, because good and evil would then be all the same to him; not just, because justice never confers the same reward on good and evil. But it is only sheer blasphemy to think thus of God.
But will you say: “I do not mean it so; I grant the holiness and justice of God, but I give his goodness and mercy also their due. I trust in them, and on account of them I hope that God will not reject me on the day of judgment." Well, your speech has this foundation: as long as you live upon earth, you may, however great a sinner you be, hope and trust in the mercy of God. It is true, the mercy of God is infinite and eternal, but for you the application of that mercy must be restricted to time. Your hope and confidence are vain as soon as you extend them beyond the veil of time to the judgment-seat of God. God’s justice alone will sit on the judgment-seat, and do its part unswervingly. As God then shall find you, he will judge you: if he find you good, he will admit you into heaven; but if bad, he shall condemn you to hell.
But you will say again: “It is not in respect to sins of malice and great crimes that I think of God as a gracious judge; but only with regard to the weakness and frailties to which all men are more or less subject. God, our heavenly Father, will surely not condemn us on account of frailties." Now listen to what I have to say: True, sins of malice fall heavier into the scales than sins of frailty, but you must know that sins of frailty also lead to damnation. Was it not a sin of weakness, which Heli committed in rearing his children so badly? And it is the opinion of all that Heli was damned. Was it not a sin of weakness which Peter committed when he denied his Master? If he had died without doing penance for it, who doubts that he would have perished eternally? Was it not a sin of weakness in Pilate to condemn Jesus to death? Whither did this sin of weakness conduct Pilate? Into hell. And what do you call sins of weakness — human frailties? Perhaps your most abominable debaucheries, your ever-returning drunkenness, your appropriation of the goods of others, your curses and blasphemies. If you approach the judgment-seat of God with such frailties, you shall surely be damned.
2. But another will say: "If God will demand so exact an account, no man shall be saved. Most people live as we do. God would be obliged then to damn all if he would damn us, and heaven would be a void." To the first I would reply: It is not true that most Christians live as you do, who speak thus. There are now, as at all times, many who live in the fear and love of God, who never commit a mortal sin; and many more, by far, who rise again from their fall and do penance. Heaven is for these, and it must be immense to contain so great a number. To the second I reply: God is just, and shall remain just, and shall reward the good and punish the wicked, no matter how great the number of the latter may be. God shall damn millions of men as well as one, if they deserve damnation. Do you not know that God destroyed the whole human race by the deluge, eight souls alone excepted ? And if these eight souls had not been just, they, too, should have perished. Do you not know that all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah perished by a rain of fire and brimstone, Lot only with his wife and two daughters excepted?
Let no sinner console himself with the thought : “ Others are not better than I, God will not condemn me.” It is probable that the people of Noe’s time, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, comforted themselves in this manner, but that did not save them, and will save no sinner. Be not, therefore, of the crowd who live in sin and vice, but foolishly expect to be of the number of the few who walk in the fear of the Lord and in the way of his commandments, for “many are called, but few are chosen.”
3. But some will say: “It is certain that Jesus Christ will be our Judge, for we say in the Apostles’ Creed: From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is all love and mercy, he came to save, not to condemn sinners . He graciously received Mary Magdalen, that public sinner, and forgave her her many sins. He graciously received the adulteress and condemned her not; he pardoned even the thief and murderer on the cross.” To this I must reply that such a confidence is in contradiction with faith, and it is not confidence, but presumption. Jesus is merciful, it is true, but he is merciful only to repentant sinners; he is good to those who are good, or who strive to be good. If Mary Magdalen, and the adulteress, and the thief on the cross, had not been truly penitent, Jesus would have no more forgiven them their sins than he did those of the obdurate Scribes and Pharisees, or those of the other thief on the cross. Does not Christ say: “Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish?” — Luke 13: 3. Do you not know that he frequently cried out: “Woe to the Pharisees!” and in terrible expressions announced to them eternal damnation? Moreover, it is certain that the mercy of God rules with a loving sway in this world, but that for those who abuse it, this mercy will, in the other world, give place to justice.
Consider all this earnestly, and be not deceived by men who make God a Heli, who was all mercy and indulgence, and had hands only to reward, but none to punish. God’s judgment is strict, so strict that we must give an account of every idle word. — Matt. 12:36. “If the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and the wicked appear ?"— Peter 4: 18. Be not satisfied with an apparent justice, which may suffice before the world, but shall not avail before God. Avoid every sin, even the smallest, and if you have sinned, reconcile yourselves with God by a true, genuine penance. Make good use of the graces which Jesus procured for you at his first coming for your salvation, that you may look forward to his second coming with joy and a well-grounded hope of his being a gracious Judge. Amen.