Questions During a Cocktail Hour


Fr. Kevin Dillon

Fr. Kevin Dillon is the Pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Parish, Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY.

You may remember that I went away in early August to Baltimore for a Professional Development Conference sponsored by the Dominican Fathers on Becoming a More Effective Preacher.  Conferences and seminars were held all day and the schedule was quite rigorous and demanding; however, evenings were free for dinner and priestly fraternity.   Msgr. James McDonald, Pastor of St. Aidan, Fr. John McCartney, Pastor of St. Mary’s in Roslyn and I were seated enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail at Phillips Crab House in the Inner Harbor when two young men approached us with an important question.

They knew we were priests because we were dressed in black suits with Roman Collars.  They asked us if it was true as to whether Pope Francis had done away with the belief that hell exists, and they were wondering, and hoping I suppose that this, was indeed the case.

I must admit we were surprised that two young men who were probably no more than 22 or 23 years old were worried or interested in the notion of hell and whether Francis had made a change in Church teaching.  We were also happy that they actually took the time and felt comfortable enough to approach three priests, all of whom were at least twice there age to ask us the question.  It was also surprising because they told us they were Protestant, and we know Protestants DO NOT accept the teaching of the Holy Father.

Of course we told them Francis made NO SUCH STATEMENT, nor can he ever. Catholics and non-Catholics alike often have asked me if the Pope is the supreme head of the Church, why can’t he just make changes on his own?  The answer is simple if Jesus said it, the teaching cannot be changed.  All one has to do is look at Holy Scripture, take Matt. 25 for example.  Jesus speaks about the fate of those who ignored their brothers and sisters in this earthly life: “Depart from me you cursed, into the everlasting fires prepared for the devil and all his angels.”  If Jesus said it, the logic goes, the Church cannot change it!  As Catholics we believe Holy Scripture is inspired by God, and thus the writings of Scripture are DIVINELY REVEALED.  Furthermore, Jesus is God and so for Christians, Jesus is the fullness of Divine Revelation.

Many people will remember the noted television evangelist and preacher Rev. Dr. Billy Graham.  He was a non-Catholic who preached a good number of sermons about Hell.  His sermons were very clear and definitive about the existence of hell.  He was an evangelical Protestant and they disagree vehemently with Catholics on many points, yet they are one with us about accepting the existence of hell as taught by Jesus Christ and proclaimed by His Holy Catholic Church. 

Personally, I do not spend a lot of time fretting over the notion of hell; I much prefer to mediate and rejoice over the infinite mercy of our loving God.  Stay close to Jesus Christ and His Church, and then you will have no need to worry about hell.

This weekend we celebrate Catechetical Sunday and we honor and salute all teachers of Religious Education, whether in Catholic Schools or our own Parish Religious Education Program.  These individuals labor tirelessly to teach our young people about Jesus Christ and help them achieve and strive for their ETERNAL SALAVTION, life with Our Lord FOREVER!

 —Fr. Kevin

Fr. Kevin’s letter appears each week in print and online in the St. Boniface Martyr Parish Bulletin.

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