Pope Says Hell Is a Self-Inflicted Fate

Religion News Service

Hell is a reality and eternal damnation is a self-inflicted punishment, Pope John Paul II told pilgrims attending his weekly general audience Wednesday.

“Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life,” the Roman Catholic pontiff said. “It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself.”

John Paul regularly speaks at his general audiences on questions arising from church teachings. His talk on hell followed a discourse last week on heaven, which he said is “neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living and personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity.”

A lengthy editorial published two weeks ago with Vatican approval in the authoritative Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica also dealt with the theological concept of hell.


“Hell exists, not as a place but as a state, a way of being of the person who suffers the pain of the deprivation of God,” read the editorial in the journal.

Speaking in similar terms, the pope told the 8,500 pilgrims attending his audience that “more than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.”

“So eternal damnation is not God’s work but is actually our own doing,” he said.

Demons, he said, “are creatures who have already given a definitive ‘no’ to God. These are the spirits who rebelled against God. They serve as a warning for human beings: Eternal damnation remains a real possibility for us too.”