This article consists of a fairly lengthy response I made to someone on Catholic Answers, concerning the justice of God. I am responding to a number of assertions, such as that God cannot be good or powerful if, desiring the salvation of all, all are not saved.
1. “God antecedently wills every man to be saved [hence the provision of the graces necessary for each man’s salvation], but He consequently wills some to be damned; in consequence, that is, of the exigencies of His justice [e.g. that those who die in mortal sin must be punished].” (Aquinas)
2. God created no one for damnation. All can, in principle, be saved. “If all sinners wished to return to God with contrite and humble hearts, all would be saved.” (St. Leonard). If God revealed to us (hypothetically) that most men would starve themselves to death, despite an abundance of food, I wouldn’t blame Him, even though He necessarily foresaw this and decided to create these men anyway. The fact is, it would be their decision to do so; they could easily have eaten. “Woe to him,” said Our Lord to St. Bridget (speaking of a presumptuous sinner), “if he does not quickly change his ways, for no one is rejected due to My foreknowledge.”
3. Suppose that all were saved but one. Suppose also that this person was “Adam.” Would it be just if God removed Adam from existence, if He knew that, by removing him, his descendants would likewise be removed? There are a number of responses to a hypothetical scenario such as this one, but ultimately they rely on assumptions: we do not know what the just or morally better alternatives are. Reason alone cannot provide the answer.
4. Many can’t get past the fact that God created a universe that He knew would contain evil, but can we logically demonstrate how much evil can be permitted by a God Who is infinitely wise and good? If not, how can we say that a particular degree of evil cannot be permitted by a good God? (This point has to be conceded for the sake of the argument; I am not attempting to demonstrate its truth). Catholic theology says that God permits evil so that He may draw a greater good out of it. I, for one, am in awe of how God is so good, wise and powerful that He can draw a greater good out of unspeakable evil. The sufferings and death of Our Lord, for example, became for us an infinite source of grace. By His sufferings, He has redeemed ours; unlike the angels, we are able to suffer for God; we can procure an increase in (accidental) glory for Him; we can empathise with Him; we can “earn” an abundance of merits that will receive an eternal reward, which, according to the Saints and mystics, is beyond our comprehension! A Visitation nun who had died, allegedly appeared to Sr. Marie–Catherine Putigny, saying: “What are all the sorrows of earth compared with the happiness of seeing God for even one instant!”
5. Hell is a fitting punishment. God is offended by sin; God is infinite; therefore sin is of infinite malice. A holy soul once said to Our Lord: “Lord, I submit to Thy judgements, but do not push the rigours of Thy justice so far.” Our Lord replied: “Do you understand what sin is? …” “I understand, Lord, that sin is an outrage to Thy Majesty.” “Well, measure, if you can, the greatness of this outrage.” “Lord, this outrage is infinite, since it attacks infinite Majesty.” “Must it not, then, be punished by an infinite chastisement? Now, as the punishment could not be infinite in its intensity, justice demands that it be so at least in its duration.” St. Catherine of Genoa and other Saints and theologians say that the pains of Hell are actually much less than they could justly be. God shows mercy even to the damned. We must also remember that the pains of the damned are proportionate to their sins. The fires of Hell, says St. John Chrysostom, discriminate between sinners. 6. According to St. Thomas, God cannot suffer at the loss of souls, in so far as He is Divine; but this does not mean that God is unloving, cold or apathetic. We often equate emotion with the heart, but the fact is that the Word (Jesus), had as much love for souls prior to the Incarnation (even though He could not then suffer at their loss), as He did at the moment of, and subsequent to, the Incarnation. (I say “at the moment of” because some mystics believe that Jesus suffered from birth.) We know that Jesus suffered intensely at the loss of souls. Consider that Jesus wept; consider His sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane. Furthermore, many holy souls (e.g. St. Faustina, St. Catherine of Racconigi, Ven. Anne of St. Bartholomew) say that Our Lord suffered inexpressibly at the loss of souls. Others (e.g. St. Bridget, Bl. Battista Varani) add that Our Lord would willingly, if it were possible (i.e. in accordance with His justice) suffer again everything that He suffered to save evenone of the damned! What love! These are great mysteries, indeed, but they are mysteries that should fill us with confidence rather than doubt.
7. It is impossible, in principle, for us to consent to our creation; we must first exist in order to give consent. I believe, however, that you already know this and that you were merely saying something like: ‘Why doesn’t God give us a chance to choose to continue existing?’ I would say this: God created us for union with Him, the Sovereign Good, Who, as the Source of all perfection, is alone capable of satisfying the desires of our intellects, our wills and our hearts. In a word, God “alone can fill the heart of man” (as He said to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi). Subsequently, our creation isintrinsically good; whether or not we acknowledge the objective Good for which (of for Whom) we have been created is another issue. Our Lord reputedly said the following to Bl. Alexandrina, who suffered from the stigmata and endured terrible sufferings for the conversion of sinners: “I have died for them, and they say they did not ask me to do so… In order to save them, I select certain souls and lay the cross on their shoulders. Happy the soul who understands the value of suffering! My cross is sweet if carried for love of me.” I certainly won’t argue with my existence. I try to follow St. Crescentia, who, when confronted with the thought of predestination, reasoned thus: “God is infinitely good; He is never the first to depart. It is His peculiar property to be ever merciful and to spare. Yes, He is my hope and my salvation.”
8. If Jesus is God, then any mystery pertaining to our salvation should be seen in the light of revealed truth. Scripture says, for example: ‘Thou art just, O Lord: and thy judgement is right.’ (Ps. 119: 137). We may doubt this if we wish, preferring to trust in our own intellect, but ultimately we have no good reason to do so – especially considering that our reason is only a reliable source if God, Who created our intellects, is true. 9. In relation to the small number of the Elect, we must remember that this is not dogma. While it seems very likely that a relatively small number are saved (out of the total of mankind), this does not tell us how many are damned. The large number of unbaptized children, for example, who die every day are not included in the number of those who are damned, properly speaking. The Council of Florence says that unbaptized infants go to Hell, but – and this cannot be emphasised enough – the Church is here referring to the loss of the Beatific Vision; for the Church elsewhere teaches that only those who die in mortal sin go to the Hell of the damned. (I do not wish to discuss the exact or ultimate fate of these souls. Ultimately, God is all-good either way; at the very least, these souls will experience a state of natural happiness, as St. Thomas, St. Alphonsus and many others have explained).
Some final quotes (revelations):
Our Lady to St. Bridget: “It would be great audacity to ask why God made his people suffer so much or why there can be eternal punishment, given that a life in sin cannot last forever. It would be as great audacity as to try to reason out and comprehend the eternity of God. God is eternal and incomprehensible. His justice and recompensation is eternal; his mercy is beyond understanding.” (Book 3, Ch 30)
St. Mechtilde: ‘O my sole Beloved, what do you desire that men should know of you?’
Jesus: ‘My goodness and My justice: My goodness which makes Me wait for man so mercifully until he is converted, to which I continually attract him by My grace; but, if he absolutely refuses to be converted, My justice demands his damnation.’
Jesus to Sr. Consolata: “If only you knew how I suffer when I must dispense justice. You see, My Heart needs to be comforted; It wishes to dispense mercy, not justice!”
Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata: “To exercise Justice is for Me to go against the current; it does violence to Me… The door of My justice, on the contrary, is shut and locked; and I open it only to him who compels Me to do so; but I never open it spontaneously.”
Jesus to Bl. Alexandrina (October 1, 1954):
“I want you to set fire to the world with this love of my Divine Heart, today extinguished in men’s hearts. Set fire! Set fire!
I want to give my love to all men. I want to be loved by all.
They do not accept it and do not love me.”