Onthe dialogue between bishops of the
PolishNational Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches:
Journeyingtogether in Christ.
OurDialogue Thus Far.
Aswe look back on the path of our dialogue has taken since its beginning in 1984,we
findthat we have thus far discovered no doctrinal obstacles that would impede the
furthergrowth of our Churches toward that unity which we believe is Christ's will (Jn.
17:21).Though we still have more to discuss, we already have much for which to be
grateful.We appreciate the words which Cardinal Bernardin addressed to us in 1988:
Itis precisely this "dynamic movement toward unity" to which we believethe people
ofour Churches are called by Christ.
Inbehalf of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of State forthe
HolySee, wrote to Prime Bishop Swanteck on January 16, 1988. Speaking for His
Holiness,the Cardinal said:
Itremains our hope that this dialogue, which from the beginning we have entrustedto
thecare and protection of the Holy Mother of God, may contribute to the progressof
allour people toward the great goal of unity. We commend this report to theirstudy
andreflection and ask their prayers that God may open before us the path Heintends
ASurvey of the Findings of the Dialogue Thus Far.
Whenhe addressed the dialogue in 1986, Prime Bishop John F. Swantek stated
succinctlya conviction which we have held from the start of our sessions and one
whichhas grown still stronger as we have worked together. He said, "The
conversationsbetween the Polish National Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic
Churchare a very important step in ecumenism because they bring two Churches to
getherwhich have been separated by the events of history, but they have so many
commoncharacteristics in faith and liturgical expression." In our dialogue wehave
carefullystudied these common characteristics which forge deep, underlying bonds
ofcommunion between our Churches, noting both major areas of identity or close
similaritybetween us and, at the same time, areas of difference or distinctiveness
whichare also significant. We began with an extended discussion over a number of
sessionsfocused on the sacramental life of the Church.
Boththe PNCC and the RCC faithfully regard the sacraments as special gifts of
Christto His Church, outward signs instituted by Him as means of grace, wherein He
actsin the power of the Spirit to nourish and strengthen the Church and be present
amongHis faithful. Along with Orthodox Churches and all the Churches of the Union of
Utrecht,the PNCC and the RCC hold seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation,
penance,Eucharist, anointing of the sick, holy orders and matrimony (cf. Nasz a Wiara
__our Faith, by Bishop F. Hodur, Scranton, 1913, page 32).
Sacramentsof Initiation: Baptism and Confirmation
TheSacrament of Penance
TheAnointing of the Sick
TheWord of God
Sacramentsof Initiation: Baptism and Confirmation.
Itis the common faith shared by the RCC and the PNCC that "by Baptismpersons
aregrafted into the mystery of Christ; they die with him, are buried with Him, andrise
withHim. They receive the spirit of adoption as children Žin which we cry, Abba,
Father'(Rom. 8:15) and thus become true adorers such as the Father seeks."(Vatican
IIConstitution on the Divine Liturgy, n. 6). Together we hold that throughbaptism,
celebratedin our Churches according to the faith handed down to us from the
Apostles,we are each made members of the one Mystical Body of Christ. In both our
Churchesnot only adults but also infants are baptized. In both Churches baptism is
administeredby a bishop, priest or deacon.
Inthe PNCC, and the RCC, baptism and confirmation are counted as two closely
inter-relatedsacraments. However, both Churches teach that confirmation completes
baptism.Both Churches hold that confirmation imparts in a special way the special
giftand seal of the Holy Spirit, strengthening the person confirmed to liveaccording
tothe holy vocation of a Christian, and both typically confer this sacrament onyoung
peopleat about the age of 12 to 15. In the PNCC as in the Latin rite of the RCC the
bishopsare the ordinary ministers of confirmation. However, in both Churches pro
visionis made for priests to administer it when this is necessary or appropriate(e.g.
inremote areas which the bishop cannot visit regularly, in the face of largenumbers
tobe confirmed requiring that the bishops have further assistance, on occasion inthe
courseof receiving an adult into membership in the Church, or in danger of death
facedby one not yet confirmed).
Itis evident that the Holy Eucharist holds a place of central importance in thelife of
bothChurches and a great many parallels have been noted in both our past and
presentpractices. The 1889 Declaration of Utrecht, article 6, held and taught by the
bishopsof the PNCC, speaks of it as "the true and central point of Catholicworship"
whilethe Vatican II Constitution on the Divine Liturgy, no. 10, speaks of theliturgy
culminatingin the Eucharist as "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is
directed(and) also the fount from which all her power flows."
Toappreciate more fully how the Eucharistic faith of the Union of Utrechtcompares
withthat of the Roman Catholic Church it is helpful to see at somewhat greater
lengththe sources just cited. This is a more complete citation from article 6 of the
Declarationof Utrecht :
Andhere follows the statement on the Eucharist from article 47 of the VaticanCouncil
Constitutionon the Divine Liturgy :
Inreflecting on these texts we find in them a very close correspondence in thefaith
whicheach expresses in its own words. Though differences of linguistic usage can be
found(e.g. transsubstantiatio -- Trent, sess. XIII, cap. 4; and przeistoczenie --PNCC
Catechism,1944, p. 33) our experience of the lived faith and Eucharistic devotion
foundin our Churches convinces us that ours is a shared belief that Christ in His
unboundedlove "did institute these holy mysteries in which spiritually and bodily,in
Hisentire being, . . . (He) abides among us" (PNCC Canon) under theappearances of
breadand wine. Thus together we affirm that "the Holy Eucharist is true Bodyand the
trueBlood of our Lord Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine for the
nourishmentof mankind for eternal life" (Katechism, catechism by Bishop F. Hodur,
Scranton,1920, page 32).
Thereis indeed a great deal of correspondence in Eucharistic practice in our two
Churches.Both Churches encourage the active participation of the faithful in the
Eucharisticliturgy and to this end celebrate the liturgy in the language of the people.
Inthe United States today this is most commonly done in English in both Churches,
thoughPolish is at times used in the PNCC and Latin or other languages in the RCC.
BothChurches encourage the faithful to the frequent reception of Holy Communion,
havingprepared themselves for this with the Sacrament of Penance. In the PNCC
childrendo not make their First Communion until the age of seven, and in the RCC not
untilthey have reached the age of discernment,which is also generally seven. In both
Churcheschildren are encouraged to prepare themselves for this by first receiving
theSacrament of Penance. In addition to the requisite dispositions of the soul,the
faithfulare also enjoined to observe a fast from solid food and alcoholic beverages
beforereceiving the Eucharist (for two hours in the case of the PNCC, for one hour in
thecase of the RCC). In both Churches the reception of the Eucharist is made
availableto the faithful not only on Sundays and Holy Days, but daily. Both Churches
providethree ways for the reception of the Eucharist: 1) receiving the Sacred Host
andthe Most Precious Blood separately, 2) receiving by intinction, i.e. the Sacred
Hostdipped in the Most Precious Blood, or 3) receiving under one species, e.g. only
theSacred Host. In the PNCC the second form, reception by intinction, is the most
common;whereas in the RCC reception in either the first or third form is more often
Besidesthese commonalities, we have found the following practical differences
betweenus. In the PNCC the minister of Holy Communion is a bishop, priest or
deacon,whereas in the RCC it may be one of these or one who, though not ordained,
hasbeen commissioned by the Church to serve as a Eucharistic minister. The PNCC
administersthe Eucharist only to members of its Church. The RCC as a general rule
restrictsadmission to the sacraments to members of the Roman Catholic Church and
toEastern Orthodox Christians who ask to be admitted; but in certaincircumstances
ofneed will also admit individual Christians of other churches or ecclesial
communitieswho request the sacraments with faith and are properly disposed.
Finallywe have found that Eucharistic devotions, i.e. the adoration of Christ in the
BlessedSacrament, continues to play an important part in the life of the PNCC, e.g.
onthe Feast of Corpus Christi, after the principal Mass on the first Sunday ofeach
month,in the Profession of the Sacrament on Easter Morning, after Lenten Services
suchas the Stations of the Cross, after Penitential Services in Advent and Lent,
afterMay and October devotions to Our Lady and June devotions to the Sacred
Heart.Such Eucharistic devotions have also been a prominent feature of the practice
ofthe RCC in the past, but have now diminished in frequency because of thegreater
emphasisliturgical renewal has placed on the Eucharistic celebration itself and the
greaterfrequency with which it is celebrated. Thus, as an example, in many parishes
thecelebration of evening Masses on the days of Lent has taken the place of
paraliturgicalLenten devotions such as the Stations of the Cross and the extra
Eucharisticdevotions which accompanied them.
TheSacrament of Penance.
Togetherthe RCC and the PNCC hold that penance is the sacrament instituted by
JesusChrist in which through confession, sorrow and a strong purpose of amending
ourlives, sins are forgiven. It is grounded on the words of Christ: "As theFather has
sentme so I also send you. . . . Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiventhem"
(Jn.20:21, 23). With these words we believe Christ gave His Apostles and theirlawful
successorspower and authority to absolve from sin those who sincerely repent of
theiroffenses. on this there is no difference between us.
Howeverwe have found practical differences which are revealed in the forms used by
ourChurches for the administration of this sacrament.
ThePNCC uses two forms in its penitential practice. Form I is Auricular (orprivate)
Confessionof the individual penitent to the confessor. This form, which may be used
byall, is mandatory for children and youth until the age of 16. Form II isGeneral
Confession,the form more commonly used by adults. Following this form a penitential
serviceis conducted in which all seeking the sacrament participate and all are
absolvedin common. This service, distinct from the penitential rite at the beginning
ofevery Mass, consists of the following elements: invitation to repentance, a
penitentialhymn, prayer invoking the Holy Spirit, exhortation, examination of
conscience,the confiteor, the assignment of a penance, and absolution.
TheRCC, in contrast, has three forms for the administration of this sacrament.Form I
isthe Rite for the Reconciliation of the Individual Penitents, and it correspondsto
FormI of the PNCC. However, the RCC considers this to be the ordinary means of
reconciliationwith God and with the Church in which there takes place the healing
encounterbetween our need and God's merciful compassion. Form II is the Rite for
theReconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution.
Thisrite is followed at penitential services which are regularly scheduled by Roman
Catholicparishes, especially during Advent and Lent, with a sufficient number of
confessorspresent to hear the confessions and absolve each of those who come
forwardto receive the sacrament. Form III is the Rite for the Reconciliation of
SeveralPenitents with General Confession and Absolution. This is similar to the
PNCCForm II, but with these differences: 1) It is limited to circumstances ofserious
necessity.2) It may not be received twice without an intervening individual
confessionof sins unless a just cause requires this. 3) It should be followed in due
courseby an individual confession in which each grave sin that has not previously
beenconfessed is confessed. 4) It does not remove the obligation of each Roman
Catholicto confess individually at least once a year all grave sins not previously
confessed.5) This third rite may not be publicly scheduled or announced in advance.
6)This rite may not be used as part of any Eucharistic liturgy.
TheRCC admits Christians of other churches and ecclesial communities to this
sacramentunder the same conditions, by way of exception, whereby they are
admittedto the Eucharist.
Inreviewing these correspondences and practical differences, it was theconclusion
ofour dialogue that the difference between us is more a difference of form thanof
underlyingintention or understanding of the sacrament itself.
TheAnointing of the Sick.
Ourdiscussion of this sacrament revealed no differences between us in matters of
faith.It can be noted, however, that the administration of this sacrament by the RCC
andthe PNCC has undergone in recent years a notable degree of renewal in its
liturgicalcelebration so that it can be seen more clearly by the faithful as a sacrament
ofthe sick intended for healing and not constricted to the "last rites"for the dying. In
certainRCC and PNCC parishes there are now on occasion communal services at
whichthis sacrament is administered. The RCC admits other Christians to this
sacramentupon the same conditions whereby they are, by way of exception,
admittedto the Eucharist.
Marriagein Christ is held by both Churches to be a sacrament of the New Law given
tous by the Lord. Thus the RCC holds that "The matrimonial covenant, bywhich a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the wholeof life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of spouses and theprocreation and education of
offspring;this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the
Lordto the dignity of a sacrament" (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1055,1). In thePNCC
itis taught that "Matrimony is the Sacrament which makes a Christian man andwoman
husbandand wife, gives them the grace to be faithful to each other, and to bring up
theirchildren in love and devotion to God" (Rt. Rev. Thaddeus Zielinski, ACatechism
ofthe Polish National Catholic Church, p. 77).
Anumber of notable points of comparison emerged in the course of the dialogue.In
thePNCC the priest who officiates at a wedding is regarded as the minister of the
sacramentof matrimony. Marriages entered into without the presence of a priest are
seenas legal unions but are not held to be sacramental marriages until the blessingof
thepriest has been received. In the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church the
husbandand wife are regarded as the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony and
thepriest is the official witness of the Church. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law,
baptizedLatin rite Catholics who have not formally with drawn from the Church (i.e.
deliberatelyand knowingly) are obliged to marry in the presence of a priest and two
otherwitnesses. This requirement (known as the "canonical form ofmarriage") must
beobserved for the marriage to be recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic
Church.Exceptions may be granted only by a dispensation from the Roman Catholic
bishop.Roman Catholic priests do confer the "nuptial blessing" at marriages,though
thisis seen as something distinct from the conferral of the sacrament itself. Intimes
pastthe nuptial blessing was conferred only at the first marriage of a bride andwas
alsorestricted to certain times of the liturgical year, not being conferred during
Adventand Lent. It is now conferred more widely.
BothChurches hold to the inviolability of marriage. In 1958 the PNCC determinedthat
eachof its dioceses would have a matrimonial court since cases of need were
increasing.Before this date rare exceptions depended upon episcopal review of the
caseand concurrence of the Prime Bishop. Now these courts review cases and make
theirrecommendations; then the bishop of the dioceses instruct their priests as to
thedirection to be taken. These rules are strictly enforced in the PNCC, and only
activemembers of this Church may appeal to its matrimonial courts. The possible
groundsfor annulment of marriage were set down in the guidelines of the 1958 Synod.
Thediocesan bishop does not usually take such a direct hand in the matrimonialcourts
ofthe Roman Catholic Church. Declarations of nullity are granted only when a caseis
reviewedby two successive courts and grounds have been established proving the
existenceof a prior block which impeded a true marriage. This must be satisfactorily
proven,for marriage enjoys "the favor of the law" and thus may not bedeclared null
withoutsuch proof. While, in the past, informal cases were quite rare in Roman
Catholicmatrimonial courts, there has been a marked increase in more recent times.
Theincrease noted by the Churches was seen by the bishop as an indication of the
needto convince people of the sanctity of marriage so that they prepare themselves
betterfor it. In the face of secularizing trends, the anonymity of urban life inwhich
peoplebecome lost and the serious problem of teenage marriage, both the Church
andfamilies have much to do.
Attentionwas given to mixed marriages between Polish National Catholics and
RomanCatholics. Today both Churches provide for closer contact in preparing
couplesfor such marriages and their celebration. Ideally the priests of both Churches
shouldbe called upon to assist in this preparation, though in practice this as yet
occurstoo rarely. Due to the restrictions observed with respect to sharing the
Eucharisttogether, the celebration of these mixed marriages outside the contexted
ofthe Eucharist is counseled in many instances. Special notice was made of the
promisewhich the Roman Catholic Church asked of its members entering mixed
marriage;namely, to do all that they can to see to the Catholic baptism and
upbringingof future children. While it can be explained that this promise is not
intendedto cancel the religious duties of the PNCC partner, the PNCC bishop
pointedout that it continues to constitute a real difficulty for their people. Theyfelt
itneeded to be understood that a Catholic upbringing is also provided to childrenof
thePolish National Catholic Church.
Itis understood that the RCC and the PNCC similarly maintain the threefoldpattern
ofthe ordained ministry, made up of bishops, presbyters and deacons; and further
thatboth Churches regard the apostolic succession of bishops to be integral to the
ordainedministry of the Church. Given this, the dialogue turned its attention to the
riteswhich are employed by the two Churches in the ordination of bishops as well as
therites used to ordain priests and deacons. It was the conclusion of the bishops
thatthese rites display an essential similarity. It was noted that the sacramentalform
usedfor the ordination of a bishop in the PNCC is nearly an exact Polish renderingof
theLatin form used by the Roman Catholic Church prior to the reforms instituted by
PopePaul VI in 1968.
Theapostolic succession of bishops as seen in light of the teachings of the IIVatican
Counciland those of the Polish National Catholic Church were also presented. A good
dealof clarity emerged on this matter so that the bishops were able to discern that
apostolicsuccession is not an issue in question between the Churches. It seemed
clearto the Roman Catholic participants on the basis of the evidence that the
bishopsof the Polish National Catholic Church are validly ordained bishops in
Othermatters reviewed and discussed included the procedures followed by the
Churchesin the selection of candidates for the office and ministry of bishops. And
somefurther questions were raised concerning the manner in which bishops
exercisedthe authority of their office. Principle among these was the collegiality of
bishops.We see the need and the desirability of discussing further the collegiality of
RomanCatholic bishops with the Bishop of Rome as the head of their college as well
asthe fraternal links which exist between the bishop of the PNCC and otherbishops
ofthe Old Catholic Union of Utrecht.
TheWord of God.
Thereare numerous points on which we find no disagreement between the RCC and
thePNCC with respect to the Word of God. Together we hold that "Christ theLord,
inwhom the entire revelation of the Most High God is summed up (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20;3:16
4:6)commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel" (Vatican II Constitution on
DivineRevelation, n. 7). Further we concur that "in order that the full andliving
Gospelmight always be preserved in the church the Apostles left bishops as their
successors.They gave them Žtheir own position of teaching authority' (St. Irenaeus,
Adv.Haer., III, 3, 1:PG 7, 848). This sacred Tradition, then, and the sacredScripture of
bothTestaments are like the mirror in which the church during its pilgrim journeyhere
onearth contemplates God, from whom she receives everything, until such time as
sheis brought to see Him face to face as He really is (cf. Jn 3:2)" (VaticanII, Ibid.).
Alsowe agree that "the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Workof God,
whetherin its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to theliving
teachingoffice of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the
nameof Jesus Christ. Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, butis
itsservant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it" (Ibid. n. 8).
Prizingthe Word of God as one of His greatest gifts, received from Christ with the
commandthat it be proclaimed and preached in His name throughout the world to
everyperson, the PNCC has not hesitated in the past to speak of the Word of God
heardand preached in the Church as having sacramental power (moc sakramentalna --
Resolutionof the Second Synod, 1909; in Wiara i Wiedza, Scranton, 1913, page 12).
Forits part the RCC does not speak of the Word of God as a sacrament distinct from
andalong side the seven sacraments which it celebrates. it considers the
proclamationof the Word of God to be an integral part of the celebration of all seven
sacraments.The Word of God permeates all the sacramental rites. To ensure that this
wouldbe realized in practice the Second Vatican Council provided for a new emphasis
onpreaching and a new structure for its liturgy. The Council stressed that"two parts
whichin a sense go to make up the Mass, viz. the Liturgy of the word and the
Eucharisticliturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one
singleact of worship" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 56). Because"access
tothe Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian Faithful,"
(Constitutionon Divine Revelation, n. 22) a new lectionary or book of readings has
beendeveloped for a three-year liturgical cycle providing a much wider selection of
scripturalreadings at Mass than the previous one-year cycle could provide. Further
theCouncil urged that "all clerics, particularly priests of Christ and otherswho, as
deaconsor catechists, are officially engaged in the ministry of the word, should
immersethemselves in the Scriptures by constant sacred reading and diligent study.
Forit must not happen that anyone becomes Žan empty preacher of the word to
others,not being a bearer of the word in his own heart,' (St. Augustine, Serm. 179;
PL38, 966) when he ought to be sharing the boundless riches of the divine wordwith
thefaithful committed to his care, especially in the sacred liturgy"(Constitution on
DivineRevelation, n. 24).
Thishaving been said, while we recognize a certain difference at least indescriptive
terminologyused by the PNCC and the RCC, we see as well a deep point of contact
beneaththis formal difference. For the RCC also holds that in His Holy Word Christ
makeshimself present to His people with power (Ibid, 13, 17) and for this reason"the
Churchhas always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the
Lord,in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the Sacred Liturgy, to partakeof
thebread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word ofGod
andthe Body of Christ" (Ibid. n. 21).
TheLife to Come.
Afterour dialogue on the sacraments a further subject for discussion was the
doctrineof the Church concerning God's universal call of all to salvation, and
teachingsof the Church concerning heaven, hell and purgatory. Our dialogue took into
accountthe teachings of Sacred Scripture, the ancient creeds, the Fathers of the
Church(both East and West) as well as subsequent Church tradition.
Discussionwas prompted by the fact that in the past some thought there was a
differencein the Churches' teachings because of differing emphasis in preaching. The
PolishNational Catholic Church does not wish to stress the fear of hell and damnation
asa motivation for living a Christian life since in the end it could have ademoralizing
effecton the people. It was made clear in this dialogue that the Polish National
CatholicChurch, by its positive homiletic emphasis on God's universal salvific will as
wellas His gracious assistance and loving mercy toward sinners, does not intend to
denyany other element of Christian teaching. The Church's basic teaching may be
summedup in the words of the Most Reverend Francis Hodur, the first bishop of the
PolishNational Catholic Church:
Inthe dialogue a fundamental agreement by the Churches in their teachingconcerning
heavenwas ascertained. In both Churches the intercession of the saints in heaven is
invoked.Further agreement exists on prayers for the deceased, including the
celebrationof Masses for them. Today both Churches emphasize the compassionate
mercyand love of God in preaching without denying the seriousness of hell. God is
just,will never punish unjustly, and wills the salvation of all. Both Churches
acknowledgethat fear of damnation is not the best motive for Christian living, but it
isa salutary one.
Havingestablished this much, our dialogue gave close attention to an apparent
differencewhich surfaced in the past. Specifically this has to do with whether hell is
eternal.In A Catechism of the Polish National Catholic Church published by the
MissionFund PNCC, one finds the question: "What of eternal punishment?" Tothis
answeris given: "Eternal punishment would be contrary to the wisdom, love and
justiceof God" (N. 169). A different teaching is found in the Constitution on the
Churchof the Second Vatican Council, where one reads: "Since we know neither the
daynor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so
thatwhen the single course of earthly life is completed (cf. Heb. 9:27), we maymerit
toenter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed (cf.Mt.
25:31-46)and not, like the wicked and slothful servants (cf. Mt. 25:36), be ordered to
departinto the eternal fire (cf. Mt.25:41), into the outer darkness where Žthere will
beweeping and gnashing of teeth' (Mt. 22:13 and 25:30)" (N. 48).
Inconsidering this disparity, three factors should be taken into account. First,the
catechismcited, though significant, is not a magisterial document of the PNCC. It
doesnot carry the weight of a citation from the Second Vatican Council, forinstance.
Second,the dialogue is in receipt of a statement subscribed to by the six current
bishopsof the PNCC under date of March 1, 1988 which reads: "Maintaining the
teachingsof the Undivided Church, we, the Bishops of the Polish National Catholic
Church,in conformity with the Declaration of Utrecht (September 24, 1889), affirm the
following:'The Polish National Catholic Church has not taught and does not teach the
so-calleddoctrine of Universal Salvation.' " Third, assurances have been given that
catecheticalmaterials in use by the PNCC will be in conformity with this teaching of
Werecognize that Jesus, as recorded by the New Testament, made use of the
languageof His time. He spoke both of Sheol, the dark abode of all the dead; and
Gehenna,the postexilic Jewish idea of an eschatological place of punishment for
apostateJews and Gentile sinners where they suffered the pain of everlasting fire.
Fromthis basis Christian theology has proceeded through a complex and extended
developmentguided by faith in the resurrection of the dead. Nonetheless, whatever
maybe implied by the terms "unquenchable fire" and "everlastingfire," they should
notbe explained away as meaningless. On this we agree, whatever further questions
WhileRoman Catholics do hold to the "fire" of hell, both Churches agreethat hell's
greatesttorment is that of immeasurable loss. Neither Church teaches that individual
humanbeings, even those who might be damned, are annihilated and cease to exist,
assome have argued on the basis of Mt. 10:28, "Be afraid of the one who candestroy
boththe body and the soul in gehenna." Both Churches appreciate that theso-called
"lastthings" are described in our teaching by eschatological imagery and thatmuch
concerningthe life beyond remains unavoidably mysterious to us as long as we
sojournin this life.