Hell is Real, and People Really Go There

Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the "sad and lamentable reality of eternal death," also called "hell." (CCC 1056)

An illustration by Gustav Doré of Dante's 6th circle of Hell, from the Divine Comedy
An illustration by Gustav Doré of Dante's 6th circle of Hell, from the Divine Comedy (photo: Register Files)

It was strange reporting when atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari claimed Pope Francis said there is no hell but “what exists is the disappearance of sinful souls.” The Vatican Communications Office promptly stated the story never happened, but it was not fast enough to stop all hell from breaking loose on the internet as major media outlets grabbed onto the story.

There are extensive quotes published from Pope Francis about hell, so what really happened and what was Scalfari’s endgame? Likely, since he is no friend to faith, he was eager to demean the Pope, shock and disturb Catholics and cause further dissension, feed the haughtiness of anti-Catholics, and reinforce the fatal idea of no hell.


Not Just About Us

Short of scrupulosity, most Catholics who live the faith and go regularly to confession believe it will be a contest between heaven and purgatory for them personally, not hell, the place people go when they chose to reject God. If we seek God’s will, we have reason to believe that we will be with him one day for all eternity.

But striving for heaven does not fully describe our task. We should be completely, wholeheartedly dedicated to God and our fellow man because hell is not just about us. Our loved ones and God’s loved ones—everyone—are at risk of hell if they reject God.

Things once done in darkness are now celebrated in the light, so it seems the traffic on the road to perdition grows ever heavier. Hell is forever. Now is the time to work to save souls before they reach the point of no return. Our prayers, sacrifices, and fasting put up roadblocks of God’s grace that can get them to turn around.

During a physical workout, the phrase feel the burn refers to working out so hard that muscles generate a burning feeling. In the spiritual world, we should also feel the burn—a burning love that propels us to prayers and fasting to save souls from the eternal burn of damnation.


Refresher Course

At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary told the three children that many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray or make sacrifices for them. Sr. Lucia of Fatima just recently died in 2005. In her Memoirs, she described the vision of hell Our Lady showed the children:

Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror.

Many of the saints saw visions of hell. In 1868, St. John Bosco reported having a dream about hell and called it an indescribable horror. (Here is his full narration.) At the entry way to hell, he saw inscriptions from the Bible, which warn us even now.

"These shall go into everlasting punishment," (Matthew 25: 46).

"The pool of fire where both the beast and the false prophet shall be tormented day and night forever and ever,” (Apocalypse 20: 9-10).

"A land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth," (Job 10: 22). 

After a vision of hell, St. Faustina, the great 19th-century mystic said: “Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O my Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amid the greatest sufferings, than offend You by the least sin.”


Join the Army

  • Let us too pray, sacrifice and fast ardently for sinners. Pray the Rosary and chaplet of Divine Mercy daily for sinners.
  • Go to Mass and adoration frequently.
  • For support in spiritual warfare go to the Battle Ready website which claims: “The most serious decisions you and I will ever make are ones that effect the salvation or damnation of our souls.”
  • Also, as part of this warfare to save souls, and inspired by successful initiatives in Poland and Ireland, American Catholics are recruiting others to join a “coast to coast rosary” event on Oct. 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Sign up here to lead a group.

 “For our battle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens,” (Ephesians 6:12).