BKERKE, Lebanon (ChurchMilitant.com) - The head of the Maronite Church, who is also the Patriarch of Antioch, is addressing the confusion and scandal over doctrinal errors and ambiguities in the Church.
Cardinal Patriarch Béchara Raï released a six chapter doctrinal handbook titled "The Truth That Liberates and Unites" on April 9 to "neutralize the spiral of controversy, personal attacks and poisonous doctrinal accusations launched against priests, bishops" through the blogs and "fake" social media accounts.
The compendium also is a pastoral document that is "paradoxically" directed toward "priests, religious, self-proclaimed experts and 'insiders,' internet 'gurus' and lay 'militants,'" who turn the Catholic faith "into a relentless battlefield" on the internet. It is "aimed at proposing anew the official teaching of the Church on the issues and themes most often used as a pretext to fuel intra-ecclesial brawls and ad personam [on an individual basis] attacks on social media."
Béchara Raï affirmed the need to "set things straight" concerning the Magisterium of the Church and the hierarchy "in the person of the patriarch and the bishops." The document calls for clergy and religious order priests and religious to only address doctrinal and ethical issues in the media after "obtaining the authorization of their own bishop or superior."
He warned about those who use a social media platform to spread errors opposed to the doctrine and teachings of the Church are "sinning against Christ, 'who taught the Truth and handed it over to the Church.'"
Béchara Raï reaffirmed the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Hell, describing "it as a 'state' of permanent self-exclusion from communion with God and not a physical place."
"[H]e also repeats that the Church rejects the apocatastasis doctrine, according to which at the end of time, all creatures, including Satan, will be reintegrated into the fullness of the divine," the patriarch asserted.
Pope Francis in recent weeks has garnered controversy and confusion over his doctrinal ambiguities regarding Hell in two separate instances. On Saturday, the Holy Father answered questions posed by children from St. Paul of the Cross parish in Rome. One question from a young boy, Emanuele, was concerning that of his father who died a "nonbeliever" but had his four children baptized: "Is Dad in Heaven?"
Praising the father for his decision to baptize his children, the pope reiterated that "God is the one who says who goes to Heaven." He next posed a question to the children, asking, "What do you think? A father's heart — God has a dad's heart. ... Does God abandon His children when they are good?"
The audience responded, "No!" And the Holy Father told Emanuele "that is the answer" and "talk to your dad; pray to your dad" since his father's decision to have his children baptized "pleased God very much."
The other occasion was an article published by liberal atheist Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica, on March 28, detailing the private meeting between Scalfari and the pope, where the Holy Father allegedly denied the existence of Hell and the immortality of the human soul. Scalfari does not record conversations or take notes.
"They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God's forgiveness and enter the rank of the souls who contemplate Him, but those who do not repent and cannot, therefore, be forgiven, disappear. There is no Hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls," the pope allegedly said to Scalfari.
The Vatican issued a statement the next day: "What is reported by the author in today's article is the result of his reconstruction in which the pope's exact words are not cited. No quotation of the aforementioned article must, therefore, be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father's words."
The pope warned in a homily from 2016 at Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City that Hell — eternal separation from God — is a real outcome for the faithless. He recounted a story from his childhood catechism lessons in which he learned about the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.
He recalled the topic of eternal damnation, which the priest emphasized is not "to frighten us." The priest continued:
No, this is the truth, because if you do not take care of your heart, because the Lord is with you, and [if] you always live estranged from the Lord, perhaps there is the danger, the danger of continuing to live estranged in this way from the Lord for eternity.
The pope declared, "And this is a terrible thing!" He persuaded the faithful to prepare for their day of judgment where they will give an account before God.
The patriarch also reminded the faithful of the duty to safeguard the Depositum fidei (the Deposit of Faith), the truths of which are not "subject to revision and correction in their content" but are contained in Divine Revelation.
He reiterated the role of the Holy Spirit in "enlighten[ing] the Church and guid[ing] [H]er in deepening her knowledge of the mystery."